In addition to the myth of the Phoenix, there are two poetic influences for this piece. The first is John Keats: But when I am consumed in the fire, Give me new Phoenix wings to fly at my desire. The second is Robert Graves: To bring the dead to life Is no great magic. Few are wholly dead: Blow on a dead man’s embersAnd a live flame will start.
“I’ve always been intrigued by the myth of the Phoenix,” writes Kelly-Marie Murphy, “a bird that immolates in fire and then rises up again from its own ashes.” It is such a powerful image, and one which is relevant to disaster. No matter how devastating any single event might be, you can still recover and begin again: a do-over. The success is in the attempt and the belief that it is possible to move forward.
The work introduces the aboriginal culture to the audience by opening with the sound of a drum. The first section expresses the voice of a people whose culture has been suppressed for a century. The next section relates to the first ancestors; composite images of the sky, the raven, and the whale are used to describe the myths symbolically. It is followed by a section describing the development of the various tribes as they flourish across the land. Then the music evokes the spiritual world associated with the masks. The work concludes with a ‘transformation’ section. On the one hand, ‘transformation’ relates to the finely crafted masks which transform from one image to another, such as when the long beak of a raven or thunderbird is opened up to reveal a human face carved inside; on the other hand, it is a statement on the ongoing recognition of the culture and rights of the aboriginal people in North America. This work pays tribute to those who, despite the repression they have suffered, rise triumphantly over their obstacles.
“Old Photographs” is a piano trio movement from the multimedia work entitled Constantinople—a work written for mezzo-soprano, Arabic singer (alto), violin, violoncello, piano, and electronic audio. Inspired by the power and the humane poetic vision of Hatzis’s music, a team of artists is currently developing Constantinople as a music theatre work in partnership with the Banff Centre for the Arts. Bringing together music, choreography, projected visuals, and stage design, Constantinople’s combined artistic elements act as a metaphor in an exploration of age-old cultural and religious issues. “Old Photographs” is totally based on western musical idioms and starts with a slow and introspective theme for solo piano reminiscent of the Romantic period. As the work progresses the violin and cello enter and the work begins to slowly drift stylistically in the direction of Astor Piazzola’s style of tango.
“I believe,” says Gary Kulesha, “that it is an artist’s duty to help audiences explore contemporary experience. We must speak about our world, not the world of the past, and we must speak in a language that can encompass the incredible range of emotions we experience. We live in a world that seems to oscillate wildly between violence and frustration, and compassion and tenderness. I want my music to speak to all these things.”
The Trio No. 2 is cast in a traditional fast-slow-fast three-movement form. The first movement of this piece combines a fleeting, unsettled music with jagged and obsessive “head-banging” rhythms. The second movement is very lyrical, a flowing song tinged with sadness. The third movement is a true paean to the contemporary world, and is deeply influenced by rhythm ‘n’ blues pop music.