Dance of the Bee is composed for onstage beehive, 4 pianists, 3 grand pianos, prepared piano and SATB choir
Dance of the Bee consists of 4 sections. The total duration is 40 minutes approx.
1. Harmonic Series
2. Imitation and Elaboration
3. Fifteen Short Sentences
4. Transition from Darkness to Light
The fours stages of the composition point to four metaphorical musical ‘takes’ in musical sound, – sonic parables, perhaps, of the systems of organisation that underpin the bees’ eternal struggle, between order and chaos. The musical score of each movement contains much detailed composed material, but its realisation leaves open space for the performers to improvise and vary their contributions to the resulting complexes of musical sound. (Score examples are included later)
Harmonic Series in music refers to the fundamental note and its series of overtones – based on a vibrating string- as the basis of harmonic and timbral aspects of music. In mathematics the harmonic series is the divergent infinite series expressed in a simple form by Σ (1 + 1/2+ 1/3+1/4…).
Imitation and elaboration has musical, linguistic and mathematical meaning. Musically, it is variant of the repetition and variation principle, an important element of musical structure. Linguistically it references chinese whispers: the repetition and transmission of a message where each repetition may differ slightly from its parent. The longer the whisper chain, greater the accumulation of variants, leading to transformation of the original message. In network theory chinese whispers refers to a method “used to identify of communities of nodes or links” .
Fifteen Short Sentences takes as its starting point the phenomenon of swarming and the method by which a swarm (typically 10,000) bees chose a new home. Recent research shows that it takes no more than – 15 bees- a swarming quorum-to reach agreement about a new home site, and, through complex processes persuade the remaining 9,985 (!) bees to follow. The musical metaphor consists of 15 melodic fragments of increasing complexity, gradually linking into a long melodic chain which rapidly expands into a chromatic, swirling chaos of flight before condensing back into a simple vibrating sound..
Transition from Darkness to Light uses the darker 6 note whole tone scale and the lighter pentatonic (5 note) scale, as metaphors to explore what it might feel like to move between the darkness of the hive and light of day.
The 30 humans of the polyglot Astra Choir sing simple phrases, in many languages – except english. Like the bees’ song the human song is about something – it contains information, and has meaning..but here, as another metaphor for the hive, the multiplicity of words, sounds, voices and languages create a babel which is almost impossible to decipher, even with familiarity of the languages. Information is lost, meaning is obscured. In the end, its left up to the music with its ancient, visceral connection into our emotional pathways to give meaning..
Excerpt from Dance of the Bee: Harmonic Series, live recording, Arts House, North Melbourne 12 September 2015
Sample score: Harmonic Series. Piano 1,2 3 part