The Shape of the Earth

for male voice, piano and electronics (45′)

text by Pierce Wilcox



premiered 1 September 2018 at Resonant Bodies Festival, Carriageworks Sydney by Mitchell Riley (voice), Jack Symonds (piano), Benjamin Carey (electronics), Alexander Berlage (direction and design)

My new staged song cycle takes as its inspiration Patrick White’s iconic novel Voss and reimagines it completely. Pierce Wilcox and I were concerned not to emulate the epic, heroic tone of the novel (already a Grand Opera by Richard Meale), but rather interrogate its ideas in 21 quizzical miniature songs, reflecting shards of a complex, broken persona. This Voss is an idealist thrown into a world he longs to understand, yet remains always out of reach. The five parts of this work trace a journey from comic disbelief to flayed loneliness, with White’s indelible creation hovering just in the background.

To make this kind of work in Australia in 2018 requires a loving scepticism of the idea of Romantic, European ambition and an unflinching desire to try to understand how it became a dominant force in 19th and 20th century culture.

photo: Zan Wimberley