Fibreglass Forestry (2016)

Commissioned by: Dots+Loops

Premiered by: Nonsemble at Dots+Loops Recomposed Concert at GoMA, Brisbane, July 2016.

For: Piano, 3 Violins, 3 Violas, 3 Cellos, Drums, and Bass Synthesizer.

Length: around 19 minutes.

Premiere performance of Fibreglass Forestry at GoMA, featuring full-time Nonsemble members Hik Sugimoto, Cara Tran, Flora Wong, Samuel Andrews, Kieran Welch, Briony Luttrell, and Chris Perren, joined by guest string players Jacqueline Webber, Ellie Harrison, Henry Justo, Georgia Shine, and Emma Hales. Photographer: Chloe Callistemon. Image courtesy: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA)

Live recording:

Program notes:
Fibreglass Forestry is a large single-movement work that crystallizes spontaneous and fleeting gestures in the frozen form of fixed notation. In my work I am often caught between two competing interests: a Zen-influenced desire to leave my compositions loosely defined, dynamic, open to chaos; and a perfectionist compulsion to control every detail. Fibreglass Forestry mimics the spontaneity of improvisation within the contrived medium of notated music.

Where my previous compositions have been rather mechanical and procedural in their development, this work was much more intuitive. Its journey is more winding mountain path than machine conveyor belt. Perhaps the influence of having recently become a parent has led me to embrace mess and chaos in both life and art – this work is certainly the most deliberately untidy of my compositions to date. Much of it is the result of a kind of mental improvisation, to which the medium of notation grants powers of alignment and coherence unavailable to true improvisation.

The title is a play on this tension between the dynamic and the static: a forest constructed with fibreglass could have every leaf perfectly placed, but does not grow; it is a beautiful dead thing. But the metaphor is loose, because regardless of how strictly one tries to dictate a musical work, there is an abundance of life and chaos to be found in the very act of performance. The players, the audience, the space, and the wood and metal of the instruments are alive and organic. They are the true life-givers to a piece of music.