Kōan II : for bassoon
by James Cuddeford (2011)
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Kōan II was completed in February 2011 and was composed for the bassoonist Mark Gaydon. A koan is a paradoxical statement or ambiguous riddle used by certain Zen practitioners to aid meditation and bypass normal intellectual thought processes. My series of works with this title are reflections upon self-constructed, enigmatic, musical koans that provide stimulus to the compositional process.
Kōan II consists of one unbroken movement of 14 minutes duration, and it places enormous demands on the player's technique and stamina. The pitch content is based upon spiraling rows of harmonics originating from a low B flat fundamental, which is heard at the beginning. This generating "tonality" is subsequently brought to the fore in alternating sections that concentrate almost exclusively on aspects of this tonic row.
The bassoonist must at times discover the timbral qualities of his instrument afresh in order to attain the impossible "koan" of transforming into a different instrument. The horn in its many guises- the raw Tibetan horn, the distant foghorn, the natural horn- is evoked by the bassoonist.
Kōan II was composed with assistance from the Australia Council for the Arts.
Duration: 14 min.
First performance: by Mark Gaydon — 12 Apr 11. Pilgrim Church, Adelaide SA
Performances of this work
12 Apr 11: Pilgrim Church, Adelaide SA. Featuring Mark Gaydon.
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