Serpentine (2017)

for erhu and percussion with video – 7″
Music by Daniel Portelli and poetry by Aden Rolfe

Premiered by: Ying Liu and Claire Edwardes, 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.

Program note:

Serpentine is a multimedia piece for erhu, percussion and spoken word. It that centres around winding shapes and lines of movement such as those made by a serpent or snake. Lines in the music have a flexible identity, and manifest as asymmetrical percussive displacements, distorted grains and swarms of sound, pitch contours and energetic movements between performed actions. The video also portrays this curvature patterning through the use of a handheld camera that follows lines filmed on the side of the road. This is complemented by the story lines that emerge in Aden Rolfe’s spoken poem. Collected from his work ‘The Heavenly Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge’, which is a poetic muse on the Australian bush. The text uses refrain and repetition to explore the potential of categorisation through the figure of the snake.

In a section of the score the erhu player follows a video score containing an oscillating yellow sine wave with a flashing circle indicating fingered pitch positions and the point of contact with the bow respectively. The percussionist follows two rotating clocks that point to different percussion instruments and when to strike them. The graphic video notation is combined with staff notation.


Erhu video notation

Erhu video instructions

Percussion video notation

Percussion video instructions

Staff notation

Available to purchase at the Australian Music Centre website


Technical Diagram


Video: ‘Line-Walking Southgate’