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.
ABC Classics have just released the album Soliloquy.
As part of my year in residence at Melbourne Recital Centre, we’re staging Soliloquy on 22 November 2018 with director Gideon Obarzanek, dancer Stephanie Lake, costume designer Harriet Oxley, producer Michaela Coventry and fifty untrained, volunteer participants.
Our vision for Soliloquy builds on a fascination that Gideon Obarzanek has been tracing for years. The participants will be seated on choir stalls on stage, facing the audience. Given simple directions, they will create physical textures that work both with and against the contours of the music. They, like me, will become a living part of it, inhabiting its topography.
As I play my recorder, I’ll be sometimes absorbed into the flock, sometimes separate from them.
Dancer-choreographer Stephanie Lake sometimes becomes an embodiment of the music, dancing solo as I play. Other times, she directs 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. The stark contrast in lighting creates a drama of vivid intimacy: looking at these works, you feel as though you’re eavesdropping on something intensely private.
This sense of an internal world being shared and watched, suits this music. Our wish to stage Soliloquy comes out of a desire to amplify the experience of engrossed listening, played out by humans en masse, watched by an audience, while a single musician pours out a passionate, one-hour soliloquy.