The Bravery of Women

2006

Violin/voice/mime with live video
10’

Written for Monica Germino’s ‘Plugged & Unplugged’ touring programme. First performed in the UK, USA, Netherlands & Canada during the 2007-8 season.

The Bravery of Women appropriates the Egyptian legend of Isis & Osiris as a way of investigating the act of practising the violin. It also examines the role played by adversity in causing extraordinary acts of human courage.

Programme Note

According to Egyptian legend, Osiris’s body was divided into 14 pieces by his brother, Typhon, who dispersed them across Egypt. Isis, wife of Osiris, set out to gather the pieces of the body, put them together again and become pregnant. The act of reconstructing a body as a site of regeneration makes a metaphor for the process of rehearsing a musical work. In reassembling fragmented phrases from a sonata by J.S. Bach, the violinist echoes the actions of Isis when she reunited her husband’s scattered limbs.

If we think about music in terms of physical action and sound as the consequence of that action, we may consider musical performance in relation to the experiences of our daily lives. The violinist passes through physical encounters with her instrument in the course of performing. The sounds she makes are enriched by the very resistance she meets as she is compelled to move. Overall, those sounds are the result of paths traced in moving from one state of being to another. They are like the flickering of light that meets our eyes with the changing frames of a film.

Score excerpt for perusal only


Five Actions for a Violinist

Five Actions for a Violinist is a series of text scores for singer/violinist. They were developed as a preparatory exercise in connection with the composition of The Bravery of Women. Each scores was performed by Monica Germino, at Bimhuis Amsterdam, and captured in the form of hundreds of still images on a digital camera. These images were later assembled to make a moving image.

Screened at Blackheath Halls, London as part of Rude Health, organized by the Composition Department at Trinity Laban, London, in 2008.


Programme Note on Five Actions for a Violinist

The frame-by-frame reconstruction of a violinist’s performance of these text scores is informed by Walter Benjamin’s observation that film ‘manages to assure us of an immense and unexpected field of action’. Indeed, I am particularly interested in the possibility that the camera permits a glimpse of what it is we do when we ‘do’ music. For if we think about music in terms of physical action and sound as the consequence of that action, we may consider musical performance in relation to the experiences of our daily lives. The violinist passes through physical encounters with her instrument in the course of performing. The sounds she makes are enriched by the resistance she meets as she is compelled to move. Overall, those sounds are the result of paths traced in moving from one state of being to another. They are like the flickering of light that meets our eyes with the changing frames of a film.

The video sequences (and some of the text-scores on which they are based) of Five Actions for a Violinist were originally incorporated into live performances of The Bravery of Women, interlaced with other filmic material. However, in 2008, after The Bravery of Women had received a number of live performances, I put this film together by way of reassembling a complete performance of the text-scores in their original sequence, against the pre-recorded soundtrack from The Bravery of Women.