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GORDON TAYLER’S 2010 ORCHESTRAL WORKS
EARTH AIR FIRE WATER
The earliest seeds for these orchestral works were clearly established back in my teenage years, when my greatest passion was surfing. This wonderful activity, full of physicality, skill, artistry and gracefulness, amidst the ever changing interplay of sun, wind, rain and ocean, often with beautiful backgrounds of forest, dune and sweeping hills – all of this was secretly weaving a deep and lasting magical thread of future creativity, that would one day, as an adult, find expression through the arduous, frustrating, but ultimately rewarding and exhilarating process of musical composition in the orchestral form.
The orchestral suite ‘Earth Air Fire Water’ had its musical beginnings some 15 years ago as a flute quartet for my high school students. Learning to orchestrate would come much later – I soon discovered it is easy to orchestrate badly, and difficult to orchestrate well.
Composing for me is much more than just stringing together a bunch of notes and themes that sound OK. A melody or theme has its beginning in the spiritual domain, in a kind of boundless and indescribable space. Yoga and meditation has been a part of my life for 35 years. I have discovered a creative alchemy that occurs from the point of inner stillness these pursuits develop, which moves outwards towards the expression of musical ideas. As I continue my stumblings deeper into the orchestral medium, I am drawn more and more towards the inner spaces meditation offers.
Towards the end of the 12 month orchestration period for the ‘Earth Air Fire Water’ suite (most of 2010), I attended a lecture by the iconic Canadian environmentalist David Suzuki. He talked with passion about the 4 sacred elements, the forces that sustain all life, and his personal connection to them as the inspiration for his ecological work. My musical inspiration is much the same. I have a deep respect for the natural world – surfing gave this to me some 40 years ago. I still surf a little, but the transforming power of the experience, as the four sacred elements become intensely magnified when riding a wave, is always with me.
Many years ago I studied acupuncture and Chinese medicine, and was intrigued by their use of the 5 element Cheng cycle – our western concept is slightly different with just 4 elements, but their interconnected relationships are just as significant in understanding the natural world and our place in it. I have given some thought to these concepts, in an attempt to give the work greater structure and form eg Earth harbours Water / Water overcomes Fire, etc.
Through the 1980’s I was involved in an alternative lifestyle community experiment and the establishment of a Rudolf Steiner Waldoorf school – these experiences had a profound influence on how I thought about many things. Steiner education gave me a deeper understanding of how to surround a particular subject with an artistic framework, bringing it to life especially for children. Steiner wrote a much on the 4 seasons, and my observations see symbolic relationships between the seasons and the elements.
Before I began the orchestrations, I wrote a short verse for each piece as a starting point that I would constantly return to, especially when feeling blocked.
DANCE OF THE ELEMENTALS ‘Darkness fades, the morning light returns,
The world awakens and all is well.’
This work was initially inspired by a walk through the green hills of Balingup many years ago on a wild & windy morning – the nature spirits putting on a grand show. Musically, this 8 minute piece for two violin soloists, string orchestra & timpani, is like a prelude to the orchestral suite ‘Earth Air Fire Water’.
EARTH ‘In the winter there is sleepiness, and stillness to behold,
But moving deep within the earth are forces strong and bold.
And as we dream there stirs within a vision of another time,
To wake us from our dreaminess, to start the upward climb.’
The EARTH (1st movement) is the WINTER, when the life forces are held within the ground – the inner forces are active, the outer is dormant. It is a time of inner reflection – and so musically the ‘EARTH’ movement has a sense of quite darkness and anticipation of nature soon springing into life. The gradual building layer on layer of sound is like a meditation that takes us moment by moment into a deeper and more fulfilling reality. In embryo or in death, the earth gives life and takes life – it is where our journey begins and ends.
AIR ‘Breathe and blow, endless flow, the breath within, the air that gives us life,
High above the clouds, swirling through the trees, calling us to play and sing.’
The AIR (2nd movement) is the SPRING, when all begins to rise up in haste, an outpouring of new beginnings like our youthfulness or adolescence. As an element, air lacks visible form, but is there all the same, totally seamless and interconnected. Much of the melodic structure in this movement moves by step to capture this quality. The music emerges from the winter stillness into sudden bursts of exuberance and excitement.
FIRE ‘There is no room for doubt, no time to ponder what life’s all about,
Only the heartbeat, only the fire, to celebrate life, to fan the desire.’
The FIRE (3rd movement) is the SUMMER – full of passion and intensity, days so long and fair, when the fruits of our labours manifest in abundance, when we celebrate the light and warmth, the joy of being alive.
WATER ‘Ocean so wide and so free,
Your spirit is boundless and new,
You lead us in to world’s unknown,
To enter the watery mansions that you have grown.’
The WATER (4th movement) is the AUTUMN – water is the element of the spirit, a time of letting go as we journey back towards the timelessness of the winter. The leaves are gone, the trees are bare – we approach our senior years, and become more of who we really are. A lifetime of experiences now bring us a stillness and inner peace (hopefully) as we reflect on our individual search for meaning.
LAMENT ‘In our darkest hour, when humanity laments its own fragility,
Only music cuts through the madness, eases the pain, and brings back hope’
This piece was composed shortly after the 9/11 Twin Towers tragedy in the USA, when the whole world seemed to be in a state of shock and grief. We all seemed to miss a few heart beats, as we surrended our innocence to a harsh and threatening reality.
RUMBA DOWN UNDER ‘Like a ballet on water, wave and sand,
This rumba down under, this beautiful man,
Joined at the hips to his watery wife,
Consumed by tunnels of shimmering white,
Gracefully weaving his dance of love,
Off that dry desert headland we call ‘Red Bluff.’
This piece was inspired by family holidays at Red Bluff, an isolated surfing location north of Carnarvon in WA. An ocean teaming with life, energy and abundance with a magical left hand point break that surfers dreams about. Here you come about as close as you will ever get to seeing the macho Aussie male totally immersed in something that requires great strength, courage and skill, but at the same time is also beautiful, graceful and artistic. The ‘rumba’ is the Latin-American dance of love, very sensual, where the dancers are joined at the hip like the surfer to his wave. The music is at times forceful and powerful to capture the unrelenting power and danger of the ocean waves, but the rumba melody well into the piece is light and playful, graceful and rhythmical, with lots of conversation between instruments – the abundant life bursting forth from this marine paradise.
In conclusion, I do not wish to hide the fact that what you hear on this CD is entirely computer playback using very high quality software – there are no live musicians to be found here! Hopefully, this will not deter you from listening. In terms of the music’s capacity to hold you in an heightened space of enjoyable and active listening, I think you will be pleasantly surprised.
Many thanks to
RUSSELL COLLINS for his assistance in helping me to set up a great music computer system.
NEIL DAVIES for editing and mastering the CD audio
AUBREY SMITH for constructing my website, and for the CD / logo design and photographic work.
SOUTH WEST PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA for giving me the opportunity to have my works performed publicly.
JANE, my wife and lifetime partner, for her discerning ear, constant support of my musical ambitions, and above all her love and friendship.