Over the past few months, I have had the privilege to work alongside my colleague Liam Mulligan, a fellow composer and visual artist. We had been meaning to create something together for a long time, but the right idea - or the time in which to realise one - was yet to float our way. Because both of us have such an interest in the intersection between our art-forms, we decided to collaborate on a cross-disciplinary work. I would provide the words, he would provide the visuals, and we would work together on the music, in an attempt to engage audiences in a multi-faceted way, appropriate to our multi-faceted world.
The Invisible began with a poem. On a spontaneous burst of inspiration, I penned a short, nine-line stanza entitled 'The glass bottle'. This poem had an environmental theme, and focused on the translucence of the glass. I showed the poem to Liam, and we brainstormed how it might fit into a collaboration.
What came out of that conversation was a rough sketch of five different ideas which would form a series. Liam devised our overall title, and we negotiated its meaning. We listed five issues we felt that our Australian society often chooses to leave by the wayside. Each issue would be represented by a physical object, lending itself to descriptive poetry and unified imagery. We decided that in order to share the construction of the music element, it would be best for the two of us to improvise.
Following that conversation, I set to work scribbling more poems. 'The boat' and 'The door' came into being quite easily, but I found it difficult to capture the subject matter of 'The tattoo' and 'The puzzle piece'. After rigorous editing, the poems were ready, and it was time for the next stage.
Liam set about filming the videos that would accompany my poems. Each video centred around the object that formed the focus of each poem. 'The glass bottle' inhabited unsanitary waterways, while origami boats gleamed with fragility. 'The tattoo' was more of a challenge to capture through film, so we decided to cycle through the many symbols that might hold meaning for our audience. 'The door' is actually the reverse of what Liam filmed, and the closing of doors to dark rooms is an apt mirroring of the poem. We couldn't find a suitable puzzle for filming the fifth video, so Liam created his own.
With both poems and videos complete, we headed to the recording studio. Despite the both of us being proficient on multiple instruments, we decided to limit the improvisations to flute and guitar, with some percussion. Before each recording, I would read the appropriate poem aloud for us to absorb, before we pressed play on the video and improvised to it in real time. I haven't done this kind of improvisation before, where text and visuals govern the musical ideas, but I found it a fun learning experience. When composing, I like to imbibe my music with some form of meaning, and this felt like an extension of that.
It has been wonderful to share the creation of art across multiple forms with another person so equally. The words might be mine and the visuals might be Liam's, but we each had significant input into each other's work. I believe The Invisible is better for it.
You can read/watch/listen to The Invisible here.