Serpentine (2017)

Music by Daniel Portelli and poetry by Aden Rolfe

for erhu and percussion
with video

Premiered by: Ying Liu and Claire Edwardes
on 20 July 2017,
at the Playhouse, Western Sydney University, Australia

As part of the symposium ‘Poetic Energies Across Sonic Space’ in connection with
Australia-China Institute for Arts and Culture and Western Sydney University.

Duration: 7 minutes

Contents:

  1. Video: ‘Line-Walking Southgate’
  2. Percussion video notation
  3. Percussion video instructions
  4. Erhu video notation
  5. Erhu video instructions
  6. Poetry
  7. Staff notation
  8. Programme Note
  9. Technical Diagram
  10. Live performance video

 

1. Video: ‘Line-Walking Southgate’ 


2. Percussion video notation

3. Percussion video instructions

4. Erhu video notation

5. Erhu video instructions

6. Poetry

7. Staff notation

Available to purchase at the Australian Music Centre website

8. Programme Note

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. Lines in my music have an equally flexible identity, and manifest as grains and swarms, pitch contours, the movements made by the musicians, gestalts of sound, and constellations of sound activity as they occur on a micro and macro level. This particular way of seeing draws from the writings of anthropologist Tim Ingold and from meeting him at a workshop at Leeds University in 2014. I was inspired to create this video, entitled: “Line-walking Southgate”, that reflected a way of making and documenting a line without mapping the course before setting out that would lead to a meshwork of entanglement. My compositional process used this video as a ‘sketching’ process to inform my sonic practice. The video was made by walking through the streets of Huddersfield (UK) using a video camera to follow lines on the road at the side of the gutter. In the camera viewfinder, I looked for lines between where the tarmac meets the concrete gutter, white road lines (broken or unbroken) the edge of footpaths and whatever else entered my path. If the line stopped, I would just move the camera to another line in close proximity and continue to follow that. What I discovered from this exercise is that the ‘line’, as perceived visually, is a flexible notion. The line is still able to continue even if its shape, colour and form changes. The video is accompanied by the original audio recording made while on the walk; ambient field-recording consisting mainly of traffic and wind sounds. For me, video has become a creative tool to meditate between the visual, haptic, kinaesthetic, auditory, and the imagination. In this medium a line can change form, colour, shape, clarity, be broken or unbroken, and is ephemeral. Video qualities of motion become inspiration for precise characteristics of sound, such as asymmetrical divisions of time, irregular grains on a striated surface, the ebb and flow of material, undulating patterns, and temporal independence. These dynamic elements are combined with slow gradual changes creating the perception of stasis. These ideas are a way of understanding and navigating complex sensory situations from multiple view points, with an intent to emphasise music as a multi-sensory experience, and evoke states of reflection and kinaesthetic empathy.

The two smaller screens containing the yellow sine wave with a flashing circle, and the two clock like circles with percussion names form part of the graphic video notation that the performers where asked to interpret and use alongside their staff notation. They also form part of the sketch process behind the music which uses different oscillating glissando line patterns (broken and unbroken) at different rates of change.

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

9. Technical Diagram

10. Live performance video