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Tree of Codes

Sheet Music: Score

Tree of Codes : ‘cut-outs in time’, an opera / Liza Lim ; libretto by Liza Lim.

by Liza Lim (2015)

  • Purchase Price: $210.55 (Usually ships in 2-5 business days) — Add to Cart
  • Library Availability: Q 782.1/LIM 2 — Available for loan
  • Instrumentation: Flute 1 (doubling piccolo and bass flute), flute 2 (doubling piccolo and subcontrabass flute), oboe (doubling cor anglais), clarinet (doubling bass clarinet), bassoon, horn, trumpet, trombone, euphonium, out-of-tune upright piano, amplified toy piano, shruti box, small kalimba, strings.


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Tree of Codes takes place during an extra day grafted on to the continuity of life. Within this margin of secret time, a 'backstage' area, the boundaries between the natural world, animals, birds, humans and machines are dissolving. Dead matter is combined with the living and becomes animated. It learns to dream, to speak, to sing...

A bird mimics language and humans sing like birds. Father...does he know he's dead?...conjurs birds made out of rubbish into mutant forms of being, recuperating strange life across a boundary of death. There is a kaleidoscope of relationships joined by ventriloquism - one thing speaks for another - this world is made up of contingent parts where form is an excuse for slippage. Scene 3: 'Ventriloquism', begins with a comet, its sounds recorded by the Rosetta space mission, whilst far, far below, perhaps affected by some strange gravitational pull, a brass band blurts into life. The bubbling, percussive song of the comet is mirrored in a chorus of frogs and insects, Father's generatio aequivoca which he had dreamed up' - not real frogs and insects but 'a kind of pseudofauna and pseudoflora, the result of a fantastic fermentation of matter.' Musicians play the most primitive of violins in the form of blocks of wood that are bowed with sticks to sound out this pseudo animal kingdom yet, out of this, emerge rhythmic patterns that recite Goethe's Erlkönig.

Displacement and dissociation of time, space and identity create effects of menace and wonder. What is authentic? What is fake? The opera Tree of Codes asks: 'how do the inheritances of our genes, our stories and the unconscious beliefs passed down through generations, shape who we are, our desires, our curses? Do the living and dead exist in a relationship of ventriloquism?' As Bruno Schulz says: 'What is a Spring dusk? A multitude of unfinished stories. Here are the great breeding grounds of history. The tree roots want to speak...memories awake...'

Published by: Australian Music Centre (under licence from Ricordi Berlin) — 1 score (198p. -- A3 (portrait))

Duration: 1 hours, 15 mins

Contents note:

I. An enormous last day of life -- II. The Comet [(i) Carnival crowd of painted masks fill the streets - (ii) Father] -- III. The Ventriloquist -- IV. The Tree of Codes.

Commissioned by Oper Köln - Cologne Opera, Ensemble musikFabrik, HELLERAU – European Center for the Arts Dresden, Academy of the Arts of the World, Cologne with funds provided by Australia Council, ZKM - Centre for Media and Art, FHNW Basel Music Academy.

First performance by Oper Köln - Cologne Opera, Ensemble musikFabrik, Clement Power at Liza Lim: Tree of Codes (Oper Köln, Staatenhaus Saal 3) on 9 Apr 2016

Includes program note, performance instructions and libretto.

Composed 2013-15

Typeset edition.

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