First concert back in the subtropics was a duo performance with the incredible Nicole Carroll as part of a music technology staff showcase at the Conservatorium. It will be a semi-planned improvisation, named “Moon in Libra”. We structured it through a combination of making decisions about starting and ending, including an extended solo for Nicole to really show her instruments, and by drawing four tarot cards to guide our development over time.
Here’s what we drew, and (very briefly) how we applied the cards to our performance structure.
Knight of Pentacles
In this particular deck (the Alejandro Jodorowsky version of the Tarot de Marseille), the Knight holds the position of the pinnacle of each suit, rather than the King. Pentacles are the earth-suit, keeping us grounded and attentive to the material world. The ground on this card, however, is clearly dry and desert-like. The gravity of his position and responsibilities appear to be weighing rather heavily on this Knight. We chose to interpret the card as representing our fairly austere introduction to the materials we will be playing with, without much in the way of development or ornamentation. He is also looking ahead to the next card, so we cut the section a little short to move into the more fertile land of the Empress.
Empress (Major Arcana III)
The Empress is symbolic of fertility. On this card there’s a little green leaf emerging from the base of her baton, and the eagle on her shield is unfurling its one underdeveloped wing. She is one of the few people in this deck with not-black eyes (they’re pale green) and she is, like the Knight, gazing ahead. This is our development section, where we grow the seeds of the initial material into something more. It is also the longest section of the piece. I stay with mostly the same live-processing set-up I use in the first section, with minor additions and variations, but greatly expand the flute material I play with.
Queen of Pentacles
Here is a return to the suit of Pentacles, with a Queen who is looking back the way we have come. This section is Nicole’s solo – I drop out completely while she returns to her initial material and finds a new way to develop it. The rhythmic pulsing and interactions between different sound types that she explores here give a sense of something much more fundamental than the flute worlds that I tease out. I use the break to change the position of my mic to inside the end of my bass flute, preparing for the final section which is something altogether different.
VII of Swords
Our final card is the VII of Swords, suddenly jumping us into the suit of air. The symmetry of the card is pierced by the seventh sword, breaking upwards through the neatly enmeshed lines of the other six. In this suit, eight is the perfectly balanced number, complete and whole; with seven we are almost there but fall just short. There’s a lot of fun to be had with this ending, and I explore some of the sounds found inside the bass flute, through movement of air, key clicks, tongue clicks, throat and tongue rolls, vocalising, and playing particular notes – with a bit of live processing it really feels like I’m sounding out the monsters in there! Nicole also let herself slide into the more noise-world of her set-up for some raucous good times.
The concert also included works by Leah Barclay, Andrew Brown, and the Tomlin|Fergus duo (Vanessa Tomlinson and John Ferguson).
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