Artist/s: Anna McMichael (violin), Tamara-Anna Cislowska (piano), Isabelle Vigier (video)
Category: Classical, New Music
Reviewed by Tamara Kohler
“Vigier, McMichael and Cislowska invite audiences on a night’s journey with this thoughtful homage to the traditional lullaby.”
Chances are one of the first tunes you ever heard was a lullaby. Lullabies have been sung for thousands of years, traditionally as a method by a mother to lull her child to sleep. Evidence of lullabies can be found throughout most living cultures and many established composers along the likes of Brahms and Fauré have added to the vast collection. In a more recent trend, artists such as Melbourne based-composer Nat Barsch, British composer Max Richter and American composer William Basinski have taken the task of re-developing the concept of the lullaby for the modern ear.
Adapting the title If that diamond ring turns brass from arguably one of the most well-known traditional lullabies Hush Little Baby, video artist Isabelle Vigier and musicians Anna McMichael and Tamara-Anna Cislowska have created their own compilation of modern lullabies across a four-part video release. Curated by McMichael with a selection of six composers spanning from mid-twentieth century Romanian composer George Enescu to current day Australian composer Kate Moore, McMichael has intricately created a delicate space for an audience to slip away into their own fragile dreams.
Cislowska and McMichael are beautifully suited as a musical duo. Their impressive technical facilities on their respective instruments allow for a tender and sensitive interpretation of each work.
Part one opens with the feathery unisons of the violin and piano, blending seamlessly across into the rich harmonic textures of the Ravel berceuse. McMichael beautifully articulates each phrase with a shimmering vibrato, giving hope and a sense of wonder to each face presented in the accompanying projections.
By stark contrast, part two evokes a sense of frustration, through the insistent violin glissandi which sit against stark block chords in the piano. One may conjure an image of an irritated mother, eager to soothe her child to sleep.
“Go to sleep, close your eyes. Close your eyes and I’ll close mine. Hush-A-Bye, don’t you cry.”
Unexpectedly, Cislowska’s static piano chords are broken with a tender touch, moving alongside the rising contours of the violin.
“Don’t cry, I’ll hold you soft and still”.
This is one of many stirring moments across the four videos, captured so beautifully by these eloquent musicians. Each of these moments is gracefully accompanied by Vigier’s thoughtful imagery. Her images remind us that the lullaby is universal.
Many lullabies, sweet as they commonly seem, often reflect dark and sinister meaning. Vigier’s selection from various traditional poems develops throughout the work alongside increasingly more obscure imagery. She delves into the darkness of the night, paying homage to the legends, terrors and the eventual peace that often settles across the night’s span. These images are accompanied by haunting subtleties in the soundtrack, such as the glass bead mobile shimmering beneath the unrelenting violin arpeggios in Kate Moore’s Broken Rosary.
The work continues to expand harmonically with Szymanowski’s rich octave displacement between the violin and piano writing, while the accompanying imagery does quite the opposite, simplifying into images of nature and stone which act as a gentle conclusion to the nights visual journey.
If that diamond ring turns brass initially feels simple and delicate yet as one delves deeper, each carefully sculpted timbre and delicately expressed face forms a journey which feels strangely relatable, as though you’ve unlocked a vault of your own untouched memories.
This work is a companion to an earlier program entitled Close your eyes and I’ll close mine and the entire collection is available via the Tall Poppies label. If that diamond ring turns brass is available now as a free four-part video release through the Unsound label.
VIEW AND LISTEN
Here is the first of the four videos.