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Sample: first page of movements I, II, IV and VSee details ➔
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The piece’s title is borrowed (bastardized) from Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt’s Oblique Strategies, a pack of cards for addressing creative blockages: aphoristic suggestions like “use an old idea” or “work at a different speed”. My Obtuse Strategies is not so different from that in principle, but perhaps with a slant towards difficulty, frustration, an obstructed passage, attempting something again and again, a strategy not in fact working so well. Obtuse here is not used in the sense of dumb or dull, but from its Latin root obtundere, “to beat against, make dull”, or even further, from tudes, a hammer.
Each of the five movements involves some kind of musical strategy, and employs a spatial or directional metaphor. Where the first movement winds itself gradually upwards, the second movement jumps abruptly between registers or compartments. The third movement is stuck in suspended motion, meandering downward beneath an uneasy oscillation, while the fourth is again ascending, recalling the first movement but at breakneck speed. The fifth movement again arrives at a kind of stasis, expanding and contracting a slow repeated tolling chord, stretching out in every direction.
I see these pieces as a series of everyday – but meaningful – structures, attempts to find direction or purpose, however unsuccessful or trivial or obfuscated: little mundane rituals we hung on to amidst the malaise of a pandemic.
Commissioned by Henry Wong Doe with funding from Creative New Zealand
I. Satie, A Ladder (keep going up)
II. Compartments (box yourself in)
IV. Recapitulations (do it again, but try harder)
V. Memory Palace