3 Symphonic Dances
Composition Date: 2017
Duration: c. 25′ (3 Movements)
Instrumentation: Full Orchestra
1. Floating Bell
The first movement of this work emerged when a friend sent me an image (below) of what I later discovered was an “Australian spotted jellyfish” or “Floating Bell” (‘Phyllorhiza punctata’).1
I was instantly immersed in the details of this stunning image. Every aspect of the jellyfish had a distinctive character: they contained extraordinarily different, yet related micro-structures, textures, colours, shapes and movements. There were also distinct biological functions: for instance, the umbrella-shaped bell pulsates for locomotion, whilst the stinging tentacles can be used to capture prey.
These features were all highly suggestive to me from a musical perspective. I began to imagine for myself dramatic scenes of this wonderful creature alive, glistening and pulsating in the water. So I chose to use this imagination-infused narrative as the basis for the first movement of this work.
2. Sky in Water
For this movement, I drew upon the mirror-like shifting shapes of the trees and the sky as reflected on the lake at Kew Gardens in London. I have also tried to weave into the piece the enchanting interruptions that various creatures—such as the ducks—were making across the water’s surface.
The second inspiration for this piece—as well as the title—is a poem by the 13th century poet Jalaluddin Rumi: “As the Sky does in Water”, especially the lines:
Images. Presence plays with form,
fleeing and hiding as the sky does with water,
now one place, now nowhere.2
3. Morialta Falls
The third movement was motivated by the dramatic force that I discovered in an image of Morialta Falls, which is located in Adelaide.
For me, the image evoked more severe or intense musical dynamics, tonalities and textures. I was especially drawn to the unremitting plunge, the glistening spray, the harsh and jagged rock face, and, above it all, the calm, transparently blue Australian sky.
1 I have been unable to track down the source of this beautiful image.
2 From Rumi, J. (2007). Bridge to the Soul: Journeys Into the Music and Silence of the Heart. Trans. C. Barks, A.J. Arberry, and N. O. Ergin. HarperOne.