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Ten Days on the Island

March 23 - April 1 2007


 Da Contents H2

 

a thousand doors, a thousand windows: an ear to the soul

keith gallasch


a thousand doors, a thousand windows a thousand doors, a thousand windows
image cazerine barry
The curious history of windows (pondered by Bachelard, Virilio et al) and their metaphorical standing (windows on the soul; windows as eyes) are called to mind by Xenia Hanusiak’s A Thousand Doors, A Thousand Windows, a multimedia recital for soprano, recorded musical and electronic scores, and projected video imagery.

The Barn at the Historic Rosny Centre has no windows that we can see, just big wooden doors, a high timber rafted roof and richly textured, unadorned stone walls. We are enclosed in its darkness, our ears this time are the windows to whatever we might conjure from the musical creations of Xenia Hanusiak and Constantine Koukias. Yes, there’s a little stage business (occasional movement and gesture from Hanusiak) and video projections (alternating between blandly literal and irritatingly opaque), but the real drama of these works is in the singing. Hanusiak adroitly negotiates the demands of the composers, Hobart based Koukias and the Paris based Finnish composer, Kaija Saarahio, both requiring the soprano to plunge from ecstatic soaring to spoken and whispered text, and to leap back again to the heights. As well, the scores that Hanusiak sings with and against are far from the traditional notion of accompaniment—they merge into eerie wholeness ostensibly musical elements and recorded and created sounds.

Koukias’s Incantation Echoi II (1996) focuses on “the enunciation of pure vowels”, the open-mouthed, uncluttered tools of spiritual transcendance in ancient Christian and other ritual, here felt in passionate cries as well as lyrical flights in the big church ambience that is electronically provided. Lohn (from afar) (1996) is from the first part of Saariaho’s wonderful opera, L’amour de loin, in which a Christian prince in the European Middle Ages corresponds and falls in love with an Islamic princess in northern Africa. They never meet—he dies on the journey—but their relationship has evolved with an ecstatic intensity, here amplified by words sung, spoken and whispered in a shimmering percussive world and echoed with voices off in Occitan, French and English and ending in a heaven of bird calls. Appropriately Hanusiak holds the red-bound score, reading it (the text is the work of a mediaeval troubador) as if a letter from the lover prince. The singing is supple, full-bodied and finely integrated with the recorded material.

A Thousand Doors, A Thousand Windows (2003-04) is a work written and devised by Hanusiak and composed by Koukias. The text has the simple imagery and the aphoristic quality of ancient Arabic and Persian texts: “Do not shut the door/ The excuse is more shameful than the offence.” The authors write that their work is about estrangement and “the need for stillness and contemplation”: “The traveller in the journey knocks at the door seeking acknowledgment and a sense of sanctuary.” They find their inspiration in “the Call to Prayer and the Christian Ringing of Bells”—the bell sounds and a haunting church organ provide anchors in a world of uneasy electronic detail and dark vibrations further tempered by Koukias’ entrancing Greek Orthodox and Middle-Eastern musicality. Hanusiak engages with the condition of the traveller, from whisper to full-throated passion, singing with her own multiplying voice.

The three works of this concert were indeed like windows on the soul—one soul full of yearning for grace, for love, for acceptance; one soul achieving moments of hard-won transcendence in a musical cosmos of unexpected, beautiful sounds.


A Thousand Doors, A Thousand Windows, soprano Xenia Hanusiak, composers Constantine Koukias, Kaija Saariaho, video artist Cazerine Barry, sound artist Bob Scott; Ten Days on the Island, The Barn, Rosny Historic Centre, Hobart, Ten Days on the Island, March 24

© Keith Gallasch; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

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