In May 2018, I gave a talk to students at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. It was really great to be able to share my ideas to the future generations of composers. My work discusses an interdisciplinary approach to composition. My ideas come from years of research inspired by the many conversations I’ve had with supervisors, lecturers and colleagues and I’m grateful to have met all these wonderful people.
Below is the abstract:
This talk tracks my journey through a series of creative works that maps the dynamic life of lines. It focuses on concepts of ephemerality, gestural tracing, grains and swarms of sound, sound gestalts, multimodality and a video sketch process. Drawing upon the work of anthropologist Tim Ingold, particularly his books: Lines: A Brief History (2007), Making (2013) and The Life of Lines (2015), I discovered a method of working with video as a medium for my own sketching process and as a scoring platform. I use video as a way to capture and document qualities of motion that bring choreographic and multimodal thinking into my music. By multimodal I mean the sensory modalities: the aural, the visual, the motor, the tactile, and the imagination, drawing inspiration from the book by Gritten, King & Welch (2016) New Perspectives on Music and Gesture. This is to propagate divergent approaches to staging music, as well as structuring and determining parameters. Central to my thinking is an expanded concept of the line as gestalts of sound, such as stream segregation, timbre segregation, and gliding tone continuity through noise bursts. Lines are also present in other forms of notation I use, in staff notation, in video, in the body, and in a concept I have termed ‘hyper-real’ gestural-sonic imagery. Form arises from a meshwork of lines of entanglement, movement and growth. The line as represented in video and musical action contributes to the tendencies and behaviours of precisely notated sound and physical movements in my music that are reflected in irregular divisions of time and frequent fluctuations of sound characteristics.
Daniel Portelli: Associate Artist
“I use video as a sketching process for composition. It becomes the primary ‘corresponding’ tool for the development of a multimodal practice; a mediating element for building vocabularies between the auditory, the kinaesthetic, the tactile, and the imagination.” – From the biography at the AMC
Library shelf no. 783.66542/POR 1 [Available for loan]
A Sense of Space works with different levels of magnification of sound that reveals grains and particles. The particulate sound vocabulary includes scratching on guitar strings with different durations and speeds, the sounds of crumbling shredded bamboo, and brushing sandpaper on wood. The vocalist with her breathy sounds emulates these qualities. I was interested in the tactility of these elements and the ways in which a minuscule perception of texture creates both abstract and concrete effects. At the abstract level, I work with similar categories of sound with a white noise spectrum that can be heard as distortion or airy tones. Varying degrees of density or resistance are shaped where physical pressure is the key parameter for controlling the audibility of the graininess or grittiness of the material.
My instrumental approach is about articulating a kind of dynamism through gestural variations, changing volume envelopes, and differences in textures from the instruments. The frequent interpolation of rests as well as quiet passages allows the sounds of the performance space to become more present to audience attention. Pauses often occur after sections that are populated with the dense sound activity of a flourishing string of micro-tonal pitches, and parts offset in uneven rhythms.
My piece Serpentine for erhu and percussion with video and spoken poetry was premiered by Claire Edwardes and Liu Ying on the 20 July 2017 at The Playhouse, Western Sydney University, Penrith Campus (Kingswood), in Australia. The score uses graphic video notation with staff notation. Further details can be found here.
Serpentine is a multimodal work that centres around winding shapes and lines of movement such as those made by a serpent or snake. From a visual perspective it is portrayed as a geometrical sine wave and rotating circles as well as non-geometrically through the use of a video camera by following lines on the ground while walking. Lines in the music have an equally flexible identity, and manifest as movements made by the musicians, grains and swarms of sound, pitch contours, and constellations of sound activity as they occur on a micro and macro level. Daniel Portelli’s compositional process uses video as a ‘sketching’ process to inform his sonic ideas. This is complemented by the lines that emerge in Aden Rolfe’s poem – both as concept and material. Taken from The Heavenly Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge, the text uses refrain and repetition to explore the poetic potential of categorisation through the figure of the snake.
Below is a video link of the premiere of Serpentine as part of the ‘Poetic Energies across sonic space’ night concert: https://youtu.be/ZEGwClyVX3Q
My piece A Sense of Space was premiered by Tracensemble, in St. Paul’s Hall, University of Huddersfield on the 5 March 2016.
17th February 2016 was the premiere of my piece Lines of Fragmentation (2015) for trumpet, trombone and two percussionists. Performed by ESMUC Ensemble, at the L’Auditori in Barcelona.
I was involved in a robot piano workshop with Professor Peter Ablinger (University of Huddersfield) and Professor Winfried Ritsch (Institut für Elektronishe Musik und Akustik, Graz) where they brought their computer-controlled/robot piano ‘RHEA’ to the Centre for Research in New Music (CeReNeM) at the University of Huddersfield. From 19th – 25th October 2015.
A concert of works were performed on 25 October in Phipps Hall at the University of Huddersfield. Listen below to the premiere of my robot piano piece called Hyperbodies.
A brief online documentary was made by filmmaker Angela Guyton, which allows you to see inside both the processes and products of these workshops and RHEA’s week-long residency at CeReNeM.
A video of the entire work can be found here.
Journal Publication – My article ‘Mapping Australia’ features in the fifth issue of the CeReNeM Journal. The journal is an online interactive website, written, edited and designed by my colleagues at Huddersfield University. Edited by PhD composer David Pocknee and web design by artist Ana Lemnaru, they have created an innovative and beautiful platform to showcase recent research in music. This issues journal covers touch, cartography, topology, nuns, pornography, synaesthesia, membranes, desire, exploded instruments, Beethoven’s piano usage, slow-motion performance, piano destruction, Australia, Big Data and trumpets.
Full Journal: http://cerenem.ricercata.org/
20 April 2015
My piece Animal was reviewed in the newspaper ‘The Australian’. The piece was premiered at the Samstag Museum in Adelaide on the 12 April 2015:
“The second work premiered, Animal by young Sydney composer Daniel Portelli, drew text from the National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention 2014, consisting of recollections of children who were held in detention.”
“Positioned upstairs in a balcony, sopranos from the Adelaide Philharmonia Chorus whispered their words like a hovering throng of tiny lost souls above the audience’s head. Then a burning flame, projected in slow-motion video, symbolically incinerated all memory of them.”
[This photo was taken during the rehearsals leading up to the premiere of the work. Some of the choir members used their phones to practice the video score while others viewed it from a projected screen.]
4 March 2015
This is the event information for my composition Animal (2015):
“Soundstream Collective performs Silence augmenteth grief in the year that marks the 100 year centenary of the ANZAC landing at Gallipoli, acknowledging the grief caused by war which is followed by suppression and silence. Featuring works by Liza Lim and Stuart Greenbaum, with world premieres by Jon Rose, Peter McNamara and Daniel Portelli and conducted by Vienna-based Warwick Stengaards. Soundstream Collective expands its group to include electronics, string quartet, video and the Adelaide Philharmonia Chorus in this emotionally charged program of works by leading Australian composers.”
The performance is on 16 April 2015 at the Anne & Gordon Samstag Museum, University of South Australia, Adelaide.
13-25 February 2015
Copy-Make (2015) is an interactive video installation I made as part of Composition Beyond Music at Impuls Music Academy in Graz, Austria, from 13-25th February 2015. The work is a visually focused work on my music composition ideas where physical gestures are captured and played back simultaneously as individual .gif like sequences repeating at different rates in a 3 by 3 grid on transparent paper.
[the outside view of the installation, which functions on the inside and outside]
5 February 2015
My piece entitled Memory Tape (2015) was performed at St Pauls Hall at Huddersfield, UK
Stephen Menotti – Trombone
Ellen Fallowfield – Cello
Bruce Crossman reports from the Asian Music Festival 2014, held in Yokohama and Tokyo 1-7 November.
“Australian composer Daniel Portelli produced a work of living breath that undulated its way into being. Portelli’s piece, entitled Undulations, explored shakuhachi-like breath qualities of two soprano saxophones whose long airy dronal qualities were reed-stabbed with dabs of colour which gradually grew in density and tension before subtly subsiding back into breath tones. The unpredictable inevitability of the shifting dabs of colour harkened to Jackson Pollock-like ‘blue poles’ of sound. This visual approach to sound is something that the late venerable Peter Sculthorpe identified as an Australian approach to sound perhaps drawn from a visual landscape culture and certainly expressed in his Sun Music series.”
Living Breath, Juxtapositional Flow and Emergent Spirit
Image: Daniel Portelli, Andrián Pertout,
Howard Dillon and Bruce Crossman at
Shibuya Cultural Center Owada Sakura Hall
© Katia Pertout
My performance at Soundstreams Emerging Composers Forum in Adelaide on 4 November 2014 won the Winston Music ECF commission of $1500 for my piano multimedia work, Mapping Australia (2014). Performed by Gabriella Smart, the concert was recorded to be broadcast on ABC Classic FM’s New Music Up Late program on 29 November at 10:30pm. I was also asked to write a new work for the Soundstream Collective.
Daniel recently represented Australia as the Young Composer Representative at the Asian Music Festival 2014 in Tokyo and Yokohama from 1-7 November 2014.
My piano work Mapping Australia (2014) was accepted to be performed at
Soundstream: Adelaide New Music Festival.
This is what was said about the competition: “A large number of works were received and the mentoring composers, Stephen Whittington (AUS), Melody Eotvos (AUS) and Jan-Bas Bollen (Nl), acknowledged that the selection process was intense, due to the quality of the works submitted. Melody Eotvos commented on the outcome: ‘the five scores that we did choose will certainly all be very strong contenders for the commissions.’
Here is a media article about my work Undulations (2014) for two soprano saxophones:
I participated in an insightful workshop by the Social Anthropologist Tim Ingold, at Leeds University. Run by CePRA (Centre for Practice-Led Research in the Arts).
The event focused on Ingold’s research into overcoming the distinction between ‘practical’ and ‘intellectual’ craft, and related problems such as the tension between ‘creativity’ and ‘research’, or whether we might think of a new word – not ‘research’, not ‘scholarship’, but something else instead – to describe the generation of new knowledge.
I have been selected to represent Australia at the Asian Composers League Young Composer Competition at the 32nd Asian Composers League Conference and Festival, 2-7 November, 2014 in Yokohama and Tokyo, Japan, with my work Undulations for two soprano saxophones.
I participated in a workshop reading session of my work Falls and Rises (2014) with soprano singer Peyee Chen as part of the Centre for Research in New Music Program (CeReNeM) in Huddersfield, England.
February 2013 – Past Collaborations
My orchestral work Finding Kensho was performed by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra as part of the Cybec 21st Century Australian Composers’ Program–with mentoring by Australian composer Nigel Butterley.
All content © 2017 Daniel Portelli