For a time in my adolescence I was possessed by a recording of Frans Brüggen playing the first of Telemann’s Twelve Fantasias for Solo Flute. Something about the incantation of its opening was bewitching. I played it for my cousin’s funeral, the only thing I could think of to ease all that family pain.
I never learned the other eleven properly. The first was too tightly wound with grief for me to imagine a relationship with any of the others. Yet not so long ago, on the final leg of a long-haul flight, somewhere high over a snowbound landscape, I surprised myself by scribbling Telemann’s title in my journal. Unexpected things emerge on planes; in that suspended state I often find myself dreaming and making lists.
Re-reading my gnomic scribble during that magical week between Christmas and New Year, the year ahead dancing with the promise of something unknown, the old one quietly slipping away, I thought of devoting myself to one fantasia a month. I like their solitude. Climbing inside them, I can hear the workings of a brilliant mind. They’re private. Introvert. They could be my personal diary for the year ahead.
I thought a lot that year about the compulsions of an artist in pursuit of an idea, the quiet obsessions that shape the way we live.
I recorded them in a marvel of a room. Sometimes the birdsong outside crept in. There you can hear the rain on the roof, which creaks and groans with the wind and sun. A glass wall looks out on to cycads and eucalyptus maculata that unfold down to a billabong.
Tracing this Telemann diary was acutely personal. It became a soliloquy – a series of moments out of time, out of earshot, diving ever deeper into sound, into memory, dream, and wonder.
Late 2018, ABC Classics released the album Soliloquy.
As part of my 2018 year in residence at Melbourne Recital Centre, we staged Soliloquy with director Gideon Obarzanek, dancer Stephanie Lake, lighting designer Niklas Pajanti, costume designer Harriet Oxley, producer Michaela Coventry, production manager Gene Hedley and forty untrained, volunteer participants.
The participants are seated on choir stalls on stage, facing the audience. Given simple directions, they create physical textures working both with and against the contours of the music. They, like me, become a living part of it. Dancer Stephanie Lake is an embodiment of the music, sometimes dancing solo, mainly directing the crowd of participants.
A strong visual reference for our piece is Bill Henson’s Paris Opera series: figures illuminated out of darkness, listening intently. In our work, Niklas Pajanti’s lighting creates a drama of vivid intimacy – watching Soliloquy, you feel as though you’re eavesdropping on something intensely private.
This sense of an internal world being shared and watched, suits this music. Played out by humans en masse, watched by an audience, a single musician pours out a passionate, one-hour soliloquy.