“Just looking around...checking out the water” (2019)

For Alto Sax, MAX, and Electronics

In early 2017, I visited the small country city of so-called Grafton. This is part of the Clarence Valley which includes the traditional land of Bundjalung, Yaegl and Gumbaynggirr people. During this trip, I spent long durations in the surrounding bush-land. One day, I stumbled across a watering hole that connected to the Orara River. In this space, I felt some degree of serenity my life had been missing - so I spent some time attempting to record natural sounds. During this process, a couple of bewildered fishermen noticed that I was fully clothed and half-submerged in the water. They asked me what I was doing to which I replied, “just looking around…checking out the water.” I suddenly felt incredibly alienated from my actions, and I realised how absurd I must have appeared in my effort to “capture nature.” After reflecting on the experience, I was reminded of literary theorist Timothy Morton’s idea that a Romantic conception of nature has obscured and alienated our relationship with actual ecology. This recognition generated a sense of dislocation from place, and some degree of cognitive dissonance. Through the creative ritualisation of my ontological alienation, this composition aims to confront the dualism of human vs. nature, and suggest a type of liminal more-than-human ecology via the performance of a series of highly abstracted, non-developmental, musical and theatrical gestures.

Link for Score

Performed by Sam Gill, Sydney Conservatorium of Music