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The Polymorphism of Consciousness : Concerto for Multiple Keyboards and Wind Symphony

by Andrián Pertout (2022)

Work Overview

The Polymorphism of Consciousness was commissioned by Julian Burnside AO QC, and especially composed for Australian pianist Michael Kieran Harvey for a Tasmanian world premiere performance in association with Simon Reade and the Hobart Wind Symphony (Hobart, Tasmania, Australia). In his influential philosophical masterwork Insight: A Study of Human Understanding (1957) ("its aim nothing less than insight into insight itself, a comprehensive view of knowledge and understanding, and to state what one needs to understand and how one proceeds to understand it"), Canadian Jesuit priest, philosopher, and theologian Bernard Lonergan (1904-1984) makes the controversial claim that 'the polymorphism of consciousness is the one and only key to philosophy.' In Lonergan on Philosophic Pluralism: The Polymorphism of Consciousness as the Key to Philosophy (2008) Gerard Walmsley "examines Lonergan's many discussions of the different forms of human consciousness, as well as his sustained responses to the problems raised by philosophical and cultural pluralism," and concludes that "polymorphic consciousness allows individuals to understand a range of philosophical positions," and that "by understanding this range, an individual is able to sympathetically and critically appreciate different positions." Philosophically, the work embodies an ecological theme and the relationship of "living organisms to one another and to their physical surroundings." According to scientists: "Since the origin of life on earth 3.8 billion years ago, our planet has experienced five mass extinction events. The last occurred some 66 million years ago when a six-mile-wide asteroid is thought to have collided with the earth, wiping out the dinosaurs." The 'sixth extinction' is expected to be of our own making. The conceptual basis of the work is structurally framed around the basic behavioural and ecological syndrome of the army ant (Eciton burchellii, the archetype of the species), which unlike other ants, does not construct a permanent nest, and is characteristically extremely aggressive. The interesting aspect of the army ant (the nomenclature applied to over 200 ant species) is that over 300 species depend on them for their survival, and so the army ant effectively serves as an analogy for the interrelationships between living organisms and their physical and biotic environment. As Elizabeth Kolbert in The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History (2014) explains: "The disappearance of the army ant from the rainforest symbolizes the gradual disappearance of biodiversity from the planet, and so in short, the extinction of even one insignificant-seeming species could start a catastrophic chain-reaction, the result of which is mass extinction." With regards to aesthetics, the five-movement work as a whole is intended to project the intensity of Brazilian heavy metal band Sepultura; possess the musical prowess of American musician, composer, activist and filmmaker Frank Zappa (1940-1993); capture some of the magic of American film composer and conductor Bernard Herrmann (1911-1975); while at the same time encompass the compositional craftsmanship, savoir faire and inventiveness of the 'great' modernists of the post-World War II period.

Work Details

Year: 2022

Instrumentation: 2 Flutes, (1 doubling piccolo), 2 oboes, (1 doubling English Horn), 2 clarinets in B flat, (1 doubling bass clarinet), 2 bassoons, alto saxophone in E flat, tenor saxophone in B flat, barintone saxophone in E flat; 2 horns in F, 2 trumpets in B flat, 2 tenor trombones, bass trombone, tuba; keyboard/s (Virtual Classic Analog Synthesizers) – 1 × 88-key MIDI controller, or 2 × 61-key MIDI controllers; 3 percussion; contrabass.

Duration: 16 min.

Difficulty: Advanced — Professional

Commission note: Commissioned by Julian Burnside.

The composer notes the following styles, genres, influences, etc in relation to this work:

Bernard Lonergan (1904-1984) Insight: A Study of Human Understanding (1957) Eciton burchellii (army ant) The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History (2014) Brazilian heavy metal band Sepultura Frank Zappa (1940-1993) Bernard Herrmann (1911-1975) Stefan Hollos and J. Richard Hollos Combinatoriality Algorithmic Composition Single- and Multi-State Probabilistic Automatons

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