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The Art of Disappearing (mezzo-soprano with string quartet)

by Cameron Lam (2019)

Audio Sample

Performance by Jenny Duck-Chong, Geist String Quartet from the CD Art of Disappearing

Art of Disappearing


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Work Overview

The Art of Disappearing is a song cycle based on Queensland poet Sarah Holland-Batt's first book, Aria (Winner, Judith Wright Poetry Prize, published University of Queensland Press). The eight songs, for mezzo soprano and string quartet, together tell stories of reminiscence, loss and grief. The Art of Disappearing highlights how alien the ordinary can feel, a kitchen's unbearable emptiness or jam jars full of memory. The sound world shifts and changes but the deep intimacy and humanity of the work is constant.

The cycle doesn't present loss as something to solve; instead, it paints the inexorable journey from stasis, as we learn to move again.

The composer writes "The Art of Disappearing, written for and dedicated to mezzo soprano Jenny Duck-Chong after years of mentorship and friendship, is an hour-long song cycle for voice and string quartet. I was drawn to Sarah's poetry for its intimacy, musicality, and immense sense of self. The striking thing about her
poetry for me, was that it was arresting, it stopped me in my tracks - it sang all by itself and I just wanted to add to that."

Cameron interweaves another four pieces into these songs, a series of string quartet interludes
contemplating the nature of time. In these movements we hear explorations of mechanics: two pieces played simultaneously (with players jumping between time streams), pulses slowly breaking down, and a melody echoing a duet with itself. These dual themes of grief and time enhance and reflect on each other throughout the cycle with motives echoing back and forth between pieces.

The work is designed to be modular: individual pieces can be performed individually, the cycle can be performed with or without the string interludes, and the string quartet movements can be performed separately (String Quartet No. 2 "Time Echoes Your Sound").

Work Details

Year: 2019

Instrumentation: Mezzo-soprano voice, 2 violins, viola, cello.

Duration: 60 min.

Difficulty: Advanced

Contents note: I. The Art of Disappearing -- II. Tracery -- III. String Quartet No.2, Mvt I: Synchronised Time -- IV. Meditation on the Plum 1 -- V. String Quartet No.2, Mvt II: Scattered Like A Broken Crusader VI. Elegie -- VII. Athenian Jar -- VIII. String Quartet No.2, Mvt III: Silence Resonating Into Sound -- X. Enduring Ritual -- XI. Meditation on the Plum 2 -- XII. String Quartet No.2, Mvt IV: Which Was Always There -- XIII. The Art of Disappearing 2.

Dedication note: Dedicated to Jenny Duck-Chong

First performance: by Jenny Duck-Chong, Geist String Quartet at The Art of Disappearing (Annandale Creative Arts Centre) on 1 Jun 2019


Resonate article: The Art of Disappearing by Cameron Lam


Performances of this work

31 Aug 2019: at Extended Play (City Recital Hall). Featuring Jenny Duck-Chong.

1 Jun 2019: at The Art of Disappearing (Annandale Creative Arts Centre). Featuring Jenny Duck-Chong, Geist String Quartet.

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