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small excesses is the name of the I Ching hexagram no. 62: “flying birds leave behind their sound.”
The composition was initially inspired by Catalonian photographer Xavi Bou's images of birds in flight. Bou's innovative technique, “chronophotography”, combines sequential photographs of birds' flight paths, revealing dramatic drawings in the sky. Hundreds of moments of incrementally changing gestures result in a curving sweep across space. In composing this duo I was intrigued by the gestures that a violinist and pianist make to draw sound from their instruments. How does sound take flight? I kept coming back to the title and wondering, what is excessive? What is small? How do those two seemingly contradictory thoughts go together? Am I going too far, or not far enough? And finally, I returned to my childhood, drifting off to sleep as I listened to my father, a fighter pilot, roaring overhead in flight training drills — raucous sound scrawling across the night sky.
Commissioned by Sara Watkins and Andrew Beer with the support of the Toronto Arts Council
for Sara Watkins and Andrew Beer