Paul Smith grew up in the Blue Mountains. He is a singer, composer and arranger. He is currently rehearsing his latest work I Dream of Purple Lakes to be premiered on Saturday night at Swopera.
How did you come to calling the new work ‘I Dream of Purple Lakes‘?
The work, written for soprano, clarinet and piano is a reflection on equality and I chose to use the metaphor of a ‘purple lake’ to depict the GLBTQI community as it responded well to the opening musical phrase which was written well before any of the words or structure. The idea of the lake worked well with the idea of ripples being a symbol for progress, too.
You wrote in the Global Media Journal that your compositions are linked to the research that is conducted during the writing period. What research did you do you while writing this work?
For this work I read a number of essays and articles about marriage equality, both for and against. I wanted the piece to involve a number of the emotions surrounding the issue. What struck me while I was reading was the breadth of feeling that different authors bring to their approach to the topic; some are hopeful about a bright future, some are frustrated at the injustices of the past and present, some are exhausted after battling for many years and some are determined to see laws change in the near future. This has largely informed the structure of the piece which contains a number of different sections.
Does this work also have links with anime that was part of your Doctorate of Creative Arts?
After three years of exploring anime through music this piece is connected to its very strong influence even though it is not linked to a specific film or show. Anime’s expressive pallet is such a large part of my musical self, my works tend to incorporate sudden gestures and employ a variety of textures and exaggerated shapes which come from the anime aesthetic.
Your research included gender in music. Are you hoping that there is a sense of a single gender sound perceived by the audience hearing the work?
I feel that gender is strongly embedded within our musical culture in relation to genres, instruments, textures and harmonies. While this piece is written for soprano it is a universal reflection on the fight for equality beyond gender. I tried to find a number of balances in the piece, for example, none of the three instruments takes the ‘dominant’ or ‘submissive’ role, at one point the singer accompanies the clarinet and piano and at another point the piano plays sparing notes while the clarinet and soprano harmonise. Harmonically, I didn’t want to use traditional chord movements, the whole concert is not about doing things in a traditional manner, so the work evolved around three different chords. During the song the instruments moves fluidly (pardon the pun…) between these three key areas.
What is the story behind the work?
The work depicts a lone figure sailing on a purple lake who is constantly throwing stones into the lake and watching the ripples that form around their boat. During the different sections I’ve tried to articulate the many emotions that come from being involved with the fight for marriage equality. From a personal perspective I struggle with the mixed feelings that come from being at a friend’s or family member’s wedding and hearing the mandatory statement that marriage is defined as being between a man and a woman. This occasion which should only be joyous and celebratory always seems, for me, marred by that statement as though I am witnessing something to which I am not entitled by virtue of being gay. I have two close friend’s weddings to attend this year, perhaps at one of them I will not be confronted with this statement.