Concentrated energy maps. Reviews of HatArt Orchestral Works CD

Updates (other reviews)

1/3/15. Gordon Kerry has a few things to say about Australian politics & cultural insularity as well the CD. Liza Lim: Orchestral Works, The Music Trust

9/2/15. Another review of the HatArt CD: ambitious, eruptive orchestral works. Andrew Clements, The Guardian, 6 Feb 201.

Liza Lim, Orchestral Works, Hat[now]Art CD review Julian Cowley, The Wire, Issue 372, Feb 2015, pp. 58-59 ‘Everything falling, rushing forward, ascending, disappearing, reappearing. Disintegrations, agglutinations, fragmentations, reconstitutions.’ So poet Octavio Paz summed up the visionary writings of Henri Michaux, but those words fit well the music of Australian composer Liza Lim. Her orchestral scores are concentrated energy maps. Her music suggests infinite turbulence, cosmic flux and spasm, eruptions and swirling vortices that drag you in, then abruptly spew you into another zone, no less volatile or intense. Carin Levine’s flute and William Barton’s didgeridoo heroically negotiate just such a convulsive and elemental soundworld in The Compass. Lim’s writing for full orchestra doesn’t console them with a sense of progression, but creates skewed cycles of gushing emergence, transformation, sudden decline and regeneration. Recorder soloist Jeremias Schwarzer is granted a more hospitable, less disorienting passage through the vivid orchestral textures of The Guest. A third piece, Pearl, Ochre, Hair String, is a stirring cauldron of glaring brass, gritty and frictional percussion, shrill woodwinds and vertiginous strings.

The CD was also mentioned in ‘2014 CD Picks’ by Andrew Ford and Alex Ross.

Music from hcmf// on BBC3 + reviews

A live concert recording of Winding Bodies: 3 knots performed by the Cikada Ensemble at the Huddersfield Festival of Contemporary music on November 23rd is available online on BBC3 iplayer for the next month:

Cikada’s performance of The Heart’s Ear is also online until end of Jan 2015 at

I recently did an interview with Sara Mohr-Pietsch for BBC3’s Composers Rooms see iplayer: p02bnxsw Some reviews from hcmf//2014

The Norwegian Cikada ensemble…displayed contemporary music in what seemed to me to be its most hopeful aspect: two superbly imagined works by the British-based Australian Liza Lim (1966), in which old usages of tonality and a wealth of new approaches are fused without self-conscious intent into a captivatingly ‘followable’ discourse, almost tactile in its aural satisfaction. [Paul Driver, Sunday Times review, 30 Nov 2014]

…The work’s soundworld—so often the case with Lim—is sumptuous, its fantasy rapturous (dauntingly so), every moment sounding entirely spontaneous. Winding Bodies: 3 Knots came across rather differently. Imagine music made of PVC, rolling uphill, over gravel, with a storm brewing above (in a good way), and you start to approximate the tenor of this piece…  [Simon Cummings, 5:4 blog, 23 Nov 2014]

Liza Lim’s The Weaver’s Knot is a potent tangling of musical lines that unravels and recombines in myriad ways just five minutes. [Andrew Clements, The Guardian, 1 Dec 2014]

Hat Art Orchestral Works CD

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The CD of my orchestral works is finally officially out on Hat Art and offers perhaps a less well-known view of my work. It includes The Compass for orchestra with solo parts for flute and didgeridoo, co-commissioned by the Sydney Symphony and the Bavarian Radio Orchestra; Pearl, Ochre, Hair String for orchestra which features a solo ‘cello using a guiro bow (based in part on Invisibility) which was commissioned through the Ian Potter Foundation for the Bavarian Radio Orchestra and the West Australian Symphony Orchestra, and The Guest written for recorder soloist Jeremias Schwarzer and the SWR Sinfonieorchester Baden-Baden & Freiburg. This final piece is somewhat on my mind as it was commissioned by Armin Koehler, the former director of the Donaueschinger Musiktage who sadly passed away just last week. The piece itself was written in memory of a dear family friend and in the preface to the score I included some lines about the transition from life to death written by the beloved poet Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi:

You look down
And it’s lucid dreaming

The gates made of light
Swing open
You see in

I would like to think that this is how it is.


Remembering Cy Twombly

Cy Twombly: An artist of selective abandon – an artist to return to again and again…

The Four Seasons (after Cy Twombly) was made for the pianist Marilyn Nonken who brings so much nuance and colour to her performance of the work (Helsinki, 2009).
The half-hour work falls into 4 parts: I. Autumn, 6′, II. Winter, 6′, III. Spring, 7′, IV. Summer (Sema), 10′

have notebook & pen – will compose

I started writing this piece, The Green Lion Eats the Sun - for double-bell euphonium, in Boston airport during a 7-hour delay (this is what boredom can do for you…) and finished it a few days later in Manchester, UK.

Marco Blaauw from musikFabrik and I had a conversation about recent projects and here’s an excerpt:

Liza: …I guess it’s the idea of parallel structures of creativity and consciousness that really fascinates me. For instance, “The Green Lion eats the Sun”, the piece for double-bell euphonium that I’ve written for Melvyn Poore, is about these two sides of consciousness which are represented quite simply with the two bells. The opening and closing of the bells give you access to one or the other side but in a weird reversal: the so-called unconscious side is much more colourful, active, vibrant than the so-called conscious one. There’s a gap: when we are on one side we can’t realize what’s on the other side. And it’s only when we change the perspective or, in the case of the piece, change the position through the opening of the bell that we can actually perceive it. That was one of the really basic ideas I had compositionally about switching between these two sides of the instrument.

Marco: Is composing, is music helping you with that process of switching between the different states of consciousness?

Liza: Yes it is – definitely! Because composing and making music is actually to be in touch with an activated form of consciousness, which is not really part of ordinary operations. I experienced that very strongly writing the piece for Melvyn.

I found it very difficult in the beginning to write for the double bell euphonium. How to activate this instrument, which doesn’t have a huge repertoire? It is not a pre-trodden path in terms of solo repertoire or of any kind of established virtuosity. I really struggled. I was getting later and later, because I was finding it hard to work with the instrument. Then I actually starting writing the piece quite recently when I was at Boston airport delayed for seven hours. One would say it is the least promising place to get into composition! But for some reason I was just so focused, so ready to reach out and pick up this piece that I wrote half of this piece in Boston airport. Surrounded by this layer of noise and frustrated passengers, I just got into such a focused state of mind and being. Nothing could disturb me. Nothing could touch me. That is the ecstasy of making art. The music is making you and you are making the music. The wonder one aims for but doesn’t necessarily reach. That was really exciting! Many thoughts I had before just came together, thoughts I had grappled with in the previous, let’s say, two years… And then it was like having access to another state, to another world, and being able to touch it and grab it. That’s one of the initial ideas of my piece “Songs found in Dream” (2005) – the Australian aboriginal idea that songs are things you “hunt” for in this other state of being.
(Skype interview with Marco Blaauw, musikFabrik, 30 May 2014, transcribed by Mareike Winter, reproduced with permission)

The Green Lion Eats the Sun (2014) for double bell euphonium will be premiered on 21 September 2014 by Melvyn Poore, Witold Lutoslawski Polish Radio Concert Studio.