Liza Lim

Liza Lim, composer
Liza Lim

The musicians of ELISION have been my most important artistic partners over 32 years ever since I conducted a work of mine, ‘Blaze’ (1986), written for the countertenor Andrew Muscat Clarke and an ensemble of 6 musicians, at ELISION’s second ever concert at Trinity College Chapel in Melbourne. I soon left the conducting to professionals but my compositional ears and mind and heart have grown in very large part due to many significant collaborations with the group starting with ‘Garden of Earthly Desire’ (1988), a 30 minute work for Handspan Puppet Theatre and 11 musicians in which I responded to Hieronymus Bosch’s vision of a whole world of arcane weirdness and propositions for life and the life of the spirit.

A scene from Liza Lim's Oresteia
Scene from Liza Lim’s ‘The Oresteia’ with Andrew Muscat Clarke (counter-tenor), directed by Barrie Kosky, ELISION & Treason of Images at Melbourne’s Theatreworks, 1993

That work subsequently toured Europe setting off a train of reverberations that were vitally important to the formation of a career path (unforeseen at the time). These included being taken up by the Italian publishing house Casa Ricordi, connections to the WDR in Cologne and also to the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival. An aesthetic world was also established in that first commission in which the timbral richness of the ‘cello as played by Rosanne Hunt, matched by Daryl Buckley’s sumptuous electric guitar, and a complex polyphonic language of struck and plucked sounds (Peter Neville, Stephen Morey and Marshall McGuire!) against sustained fluttering sliding tones (Paula Rae on flute, Stephen Robinson on oboe, Jane Robertson on clarinet) continue to be a reference point.

Moon Spirit Feasting opera Berlin
Deborah Kayser as Chang-O onstage at the Hebbel Theatre, Berlin for the German premiere of Liza Lim’s opera ‘Moon Spirit Feasting’; librettist Beth Yahp, director Michael Kantor & ELISION Ensemble

The expanded sense of possibility activated by realising a long-form work such as this early on, led us to then collaborate on many other large-scale projects: 3 operas – ‘The Oresteia’ (1991-93), ‘Yuè Lìng Jié/ Moon Spirit Feasting’ (2000) and ‘The Navigator’ (2007), and several all-night installation works made together with the artist Domenico de Clario including the ‘Bardo’i-thos-grol’ 7-night cycle (1995-96) which involved musicians mediating and improvising. Where would I be without my soul sister, the soprano Deborah Kayser! and my spirit animal, the clarinettist, singer & conductor Carl Rosman! And then there have been works such as the song cycle ‘Mother Tongue’ (2005) with poems by Patricia Sykes, and more recently ‘How Forests Think’ (2016) which featured the sheng master, Wu Wei. In between all this ensemble activity, there were many, many solo pieces (listen to Tristram Williams playing Roda – the living circle (2017), Satsuki Odamura playing Burning House (2005), and dinners and drinking in interesting locations – a life in music!
– Liza Lim

Saitama handbill
Poster: 2002 Japanese season of Moon Spirit Feasting at Saitama Arts Centre, Tokyo
Moscow poster for Navigator opera
Andrew Watts on the poster for the 2009 Moscow season of The Navigator opera; Chekhov International Theatre Festival, composer Liza Lim, librettist Patricia Sykes, director Barrie Kosky & ELISION Ensemble.

Tristram Williams and Peter Neville perform at the Melbourne Recital Centre.

Works by Liza Lim

written for and premiered by ELISION and its musicians:

Garden of Earthly Desire (1988-89)
for flute/piccolo, oboe, clarinet, mandolin, electric guitar, harp, percussion, violin, viola, violoncello, double bass

The Oresteia (1991-93) Memory theatre (opera)
for 6 singers, 11 instrumentalists and dancer
Libretto by Liza Lim after Tony Harrison & Sappho
for soprano, 2 mezzo soprano (mezzo soprano 2 also plays stage ‘cello), counter tenor, tenor, baritone & dancer (also vocalising)
flute/ piccolo, oboe/ cor anglais, clarinet/ bass clarinet, trumpet/ piccolo trumpet, trombone, Turkish baglama saz, electric guitar, percussion, viola/ viola d’amore, cello, double bass

Amulet (1992) for viola solo

Koto (1993)
Text by Bokukei
for flute/piccolo, oboe d’amore, flugelhorn, koto, viola, 2 violoncello, percussion

Afterward: From a Tower (a translation) (1994)
7 night Easter vigil with 4 voices and sound installation with light installation by artist Domenico de Clario

Bardo’-i-thos-grol (The Tibetan Book of the Dead) (1994 & 1995)
7-night performance cycle with installation by Domenico de Clario and improvisers of ELISION

Burning House (1995)
Poems and diary entry by Izumi Shikibu
for koto and voice (1 performer)

The Cauldron – Fusion of the 5 Elements (1996)
2-part meditation from sunset to sunrise at the Spring and Autumn Equinox
for seven performers with installation by Domenico de Clario

Inguz (Fertility) (1996) for clarinet in A and violoncello

The Alchemical Wedding (1996)
for 2 flutes/ piccolo, 2 oboes/ cor anglais, clarinet eflat, clarinet bflat, bass clarinet, alto saxophone, bassoon/ contrabassoon, horn, 2 trumpets, trombone, percussion, angklung, harp, er-hu, 2 violins, 3 violoncello

Yuè Lìng Jié (Moon Spirit Feasting) (1997-99)
A Chinese ritual street opera in 7 parts
Libretto by Beth Yahp
for 3 singers, 9 instrumentalists and live electronics
soprano, mezzo soprano, high baritone, flute/ piccolo/ bass flute, clarinet/ bass clarinet, alto/ baritone/ bass saxophone, trumpet/ flugelhorn, 2 percussion, koto, er-hu, violoncello

Sixteen touches of the zither (1999)
for solo koto as part of Sonorous Body (1999)
video installation by artist Judith Wright with Satsuki Odamura (koto)

Mother Tongue (2005)
Poems by Patricia Sykes
for soprano, 2 flutes (2nd picc), oboe, clarinet, bass clarinet, alto/ baritone saxophone, bassoon/ contrabassoon, trumpet, trombone, percussion, 2 violins, viola, violoncello, double bass

Glasshouse Mountains (2005)
video, floor sculptures, paintings, sound installation and performance with artist Judy Watson, Rosanne Hunt (‘cello) and Michael Hewes (sound design)

Weaver of fictions (2007) for alto Ganassi recorder

The long forgetting (2007) for tenor Ganassi recorder

Sensorium (2007) version of Scene 2 of The Navigator
Libretto by Patricia Sykes
for soprano, counter tenor, tenor Ganassi/ Paetzold contrabass recorder, Baroque triple harp, viola d’amore

The Navigator (2007-08)
Opera for 5 singers, 16 instrumentalists and electronics
Libretto by Patricia Sykes
for soprano, mezzo soprano, countertenor, baritone, bass-baritone
alto Ganassi/ tenor Ganassi/ Paetzold contrabass recorder, Baroque triple Harp, viola d’amore, flute/ piccolo, oboe/ cor anglaise, clarinet/ bass clarinet/ contrabass clarinet, bassoon/ contrabassoon, horn, trumpet, trombone/ alto trombone, percussion, electric guitar, violin, 2 violoncello, double bass, electronics

Well of Dreams (2008) for alto trombone [only playable as part of ‘TON’]

Sonorous Body (2008) for clarinet

TON (2008)
‘scena’ for mobile sculptures, audience and musicians
Collaboration with Sabrina Hoelzer (director), Volker Maerz (artist)
for alto Ganassi/ tenor Ganassi recorders, clarinet, trumpet, alto trombone

Invisibility (2009) for violoncello with two bows

Ehwaz (journeying) (2010) for trumpet and percussion

an ocean beyond earth (2016) for solo violoncello
[prepared with thread & violin]

How Forests think (2015-16)
for sheng, flute/ bass flute, oboe/ cor anglais, clarinet/ bass clarinet, alto saxophone, trumpet, tenor-bass trombone, percussion, violoncello, double bass
An interview with Liza

Roda – The living circle (2017) for solo trumpet

bioluminescence (2018) for solo flute