Samurai Loops (2015)

Duration: 8:30

Instrumentation: Two Pianos, Video, Tape / Two Pianos, Taiko Drums, Glockenspiel, Double Bass, Video

Commissioned by: Samuel Mitchell, Supported by Australia Council For The Arts

Premiered: Samuel Mitchell and Cara Tran at The Nickson Room, July 2015

Additional Performances: Samuel Mitchell and Cara Tran at “Trichotomy & Nonsemble” concert, Cupo, Brisbane, 2 September 2016

Program Notes

Samurai Loops uses a few minutes of footage cut from the 1967 film Samurai Rebellion. In the 4 sections of the work, this footage is manipulated in different ways to make rhythmic patterns visible. In the scene, two old friends are bound by their duties as Samurai to fight to the death. The duel is resolved in a single fluid and deadly motion. In Samurai Loops, this critical moment is frozen, and its hidden rhythmic qualities revealed.

In the first section, simple cuts are made to emphasise the gradually densifying harmonic movement. The second section shifts into a surreal visual space; melodic fragments begin in unison across the four hands on the pianos, and gradually drift out of phase. This is reflected by the images multiplying and slowly splitting out across the screen. Each time the melody appears, a little more of it is revealed, and likewise the footage progresses slightly further each time. In the following section, the four hands each play the same rhythm and melodic contour, but at different speeds; the footage also splits into four, each looping at a rate corresponding to one of the hands, continuing and developing until the polyrhythmic parts realign. The final section mirrors the first, showing the conclusion of the duel.

Samurai Loops is part of an ongoing exploration into how complex polyrhythmic patterns can be reflected and elucidated by moving images. In these works, repetition robs the footage of its representative function, bringing out its formal and rhythmic characteristics. The music and images of Samurai Loops were composed simultaneously, as a single integrated musical work.