Tree of Codes : cut-outs in time : an opera
by Liza Lim (2015)
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Library shelf no. Q 782.1/LIM 2 [Available for loan]
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...'
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.
Duration: 75 min.
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.
Commission note: Commissioned by Oper Köln - Cologne Opera, Academy of the Arts of the World, Cologne, HELLERAU – European Center for the Arts Dresden, Ensemble musikFabrik with funds provided by FHNW Basel Music Academy, ZKM - Centre for Media and Art, Australia Council.
Awards & Prizes
|2017||Art Music Awards: Work of the Year: Vocal/Choral||Winner||Liza Lim|
Resonate article: 2017 Art Music Awards finalists: comments by judging panels by Australian Music Centre
Resonate article: Liza Lim's Tree of Codes and the ephemerality of life by Anni Heino
Performances of this work
25 Oct 16: Tonlagen Festival, Hellerau, Dresden
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