The Art of Disappearing

Image: Luke Moseley

Image: Luke Moseley

Just over a week until the world premiere of this new work for mezzo and string quartet, penned by Sydney composer Cameron Lam, written especially for Jenny and presented by Halcyon and Kammerklang on June 1

Cameron’s first experience of Halcyon was that memorable collaborative performance of Tehillim with Synergy Percussion and Ensemble Offspring back in 2007. Having recently arrived in Sydney to study composition, it was his first ever new music gig and became a catalyst for his own path as a composer and then artistic director.  This performance marks Kammerklang’s own significant milestone -  their 10th anniversary – and Halcyon is very pleased to be celebrating this special occasion with them. 

The poetry, by Queensland writer Sarah Holland-Batt is drawn from her collection Aria, which has received numerous awards and a spate of outstanding reviews like this one:

“In poems of startling freshness and immediacy, Holland-Batt bridges the quotidian and visionary worlds in vivid acts of seeing, and reminds us of poetry’s power to renovate, to restore delight in ordinary things...”

Mascara Literary Review

Cameron had a very immediate response to her work and even on his first reading began making notes to himself of which poems he instantly wanted to set.  He says:

“I was drawn to the poetry for its intimacy, musicality, and immense sense of self. The striking thing about Sarah’s 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.” 

And add to it he has.  The cycle is now an hour-long cycle of eight songs interwoven with four string quartet movements, together tracing a journey through grief as it unfolds over time.  As the composer says: “The cycle doesn’t present loss as something to solve; instead, it paints the inexorable journey from stasis, as we learn to move again…”

Though the subject matter is introspective, it is not a sombre work; the poems savour memories conjured through everyday objects like plums, tea cups, jam jars or sheet music.  Through the gentle sonorities of mezzo and string quartet, Cameron has created a deeply personal and intimate work, itself the fruit of a long collaboration.

Click here for details on the performance

Cameron’s ensemble Kammerklang seek out collaborative art-making.  In our first project with them, Kammerklang VOX, new works of music and visual arts by young artists were jointly presented at the performance, each visual piece inspired by one of the new musical ones.    For this album, Kammerklang have commissioned another visual work from choreographer and film-maker Lou Poletti, using the four string quartet movements as its soundtrack.  The string quartet movements draw their thematic threads from the songs so this is a good introduction to the work as a whole. They have been released each week in the lead up to the album release on May 28 and you can now take a look at them all.

Movt 1: Synchronous Time

Movt 2: Scattered Like a Broken Crusader

Movt 3: Echoing Silence into Sound

Movt 4: That Which Was Always There

You can read more about the piece, the album and the people behind it here