11 November 2021
Creating Bass Instincts
Alicia Crossley writes about her new album featuring works for bass recorder by seven Australian women composers. Bass Instincts (Move) is available for purchase in CD format from the AMC Shop, as well as via streaming services.
Earlier this month I released my fourth album Bass Instincts, an album that explores the instinctual musicality, versatility, and virtuosity of the bass recorder through compositions by some of Australia's leading female composers.
As a recorder player, I get to play a variety of different-sized instruments, from the smallest garklein recorder through to the largest sub-contrabass recorder. Of all these instruments, the bass recorder (basset recorder) fascinates me the most, and exploring compositions that showcase the instruments virtuosity has become a major part of my performing career. The bass recorder possesses a beautifully deep, earthy tone, with mellow and haunting characteristics. The instrument sings with a natural lyricism that can effortlessly morph into agitated and textural soundscapes. However solo repertoire for the instrument is extremely limited, which is why I wanted to embark on a project that would create new compositions that highlight the musical qualities of this unique instrument.
When considering composers to collaborate with for Bass Instincts, it was important for me to feature a diverse range of composing styles that would showcase the versatility of the bass recorder, but still work together as a cohesive program. The composers selected for Bass Instincts - Anne Boyd, Alice Chance, Fiona Hill, Holly Harrison, Lisa Cheney, Jessica Wells and Amanda Cole - represent a broad spectrum of contemporary writing styles, from microtonal to electro-acoustic and immersive soundscapes. Each composer has beautifully highlighted the vibrancy and virtuosity of the bass recorder, utilising the instruments rich array of extended techniques and tone colours.
Holly Harrison's work Sylvan for bass recorder and percussion, explores a soundworld where the bass recorder takes the role of seductress, embracing the instruments husky and smoky tones in a spirited blues infused composition. Fiona Hill zooms in on the sonic idiosyncrasies and micro details of the bass recorder in Lost in the Darkness, for bass recorder and live electronics. Inspired by a poem written by a young refugee being held in detention, Lost in the Darkness utilises breath noise, key rattles and numerous extended techniques to sonically capture elements of the poem.
Anne Boyd seamlessly transports us to an ancient sound world in Alhekulyele, for bass recorder player and wind chimes, with sung chants merging with the haunting tones of the bass recorder before erupting into an energetic dance. In a piece that proves one bass recorder is never enough, Alice Chance's Inhaltations, for bass recorder and multi-tracked bass recorder quartet, merges the ideas of 'exaltation' and 'inhale', with inhalations adding percussive accents to the tight mellow harmonies of the quartet.
Before You, for bass recorder by Lisa Cheney, utilised a range of extended techniques to reflect the whirlwind of emotions, and the 'world of colour' experienced when welcoming a newborn into our lives. Amanda Cole showcases the subtle pitch flexibility of the bass recorder in Vibration Meditation, for bass recorder and electronics, creating interference beats, or vibrations, through tuning and timbre. Finally, Jessica Wells propels the bass recorder into a fantastical soundworld, rich with steampunk imagery in The Clockmaker, for bass recorder and electronics.
© Australian Music Centre (2021) — Permission must be obtained from the AMC if you wish to reproduce this article either online or in print.
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