Genevieve Lacey performs Twelve Fantasias for Solo Flute
“Soliloquy” by Genevieve Lacey, directed by Gideon Obarzanek & Stephanie Lake
Melbourne Recital Centre, Melbourne, Victoria, November 22, 2018
Pad through sound as if it were a light dusting of colour pigment that changes with the flicker of notes and feel within a mist of sea foam, a dusting of blush pink, a nuzzle of red. Inward. Radiate a gleam of gold, a wink of turquoise, generated by sound. Outward. Fantasia.
“Soliloquy,” a one-hour performance of Georg Telemann’s Twelve Fantasias for Solo Flute performed on recorder by Genevieve Lacey, conveys that music lies in the soul, beyond one’s control. Conceived by Lacey, directed by Gideon Obarzanek and Stephanie Lake directing dance/movement, presented by Melbourne Recital Centre, “Soliloquy” is an intimate meld of music and dance, revealing the illumination that lies within. A responsive dance performed by Lake and 38 volunteers who said “yes, unlock the sound within and let me be an improvised piece of a whole,” “Soliloquy” “builds on a fascination that Obarzanek has been tracing for years. The [volunteer] participants . . . seated on choir stalls on stage, facing the audience . . . [under Lacey and Lake’s whispered] simple directions . . . create physical textures that work both with and against the contours of the music. They, like [Lacey], will become a living part of it, inhabiting its topography.”1
“Soliloquy” is a revelation of the intimate, shared. In the embrace of lights lowered to a fireside glow, from their seats in the theatre, the volunteers rise and softly thread their way onto to the stage to join Lacey as she plays. Summoned by Lake’s cue, and also by a call in the music, and perhaps a call within to respond, here is a rare gift! Together, a new autonomous structure grows through repeated motifs. Lake makes a sundial of her hands, and the participants follow suit. Fingers echo rainfall, puff an organ’s bellows, hug a cloud. Whether all moving as one mass (seated on the stage) or in their own interpretive swim (dancing around Lacey), truth is offered, felt, and, it feels, collectively accepted. Within such a gift, the self dissolves. Dive in!
In the lead-up to “Soliloquy,” a call for volunteers with “no music or dance experience necessary”2 was answered by 38 people, including my partner, Louise Jennison, who leapt at the opportunity to become a flowing quaver motion. Just as Lacey’s connection to Telemann’s Twelve Fantasias for Solo Flute is wound up in the personal,3 for Jennison, accepting the open invitation was also of a personal nature: a chance to prove to herself that her body can continue to deal with the limitations placed upon it by post-surgical chronic pain and emerge triumphant. Facing our fears and vulnerability takes courage, and here was the opportunity to open oneself up to new rhythms.
Here, too, was the opportunity to view things from a different perspective: moving from a seat in the theatre to participating on the stage; from far to near, so close you could hear the sound of Lacey’s fingers upon her recorder as she played; from inward to outward, allowing oneself to be a part of a framework bigger than the self. And like all gifts shared, this was for us all. For those in the audience, like me, moved to tears of joy and release. Whether you are transmitting joy through a “noodling” of arms twirling in characterful rhythm or seated in the audience, joy permeating your every fibre, when the opportunity to nestle within birdsong chimes, accept.
Telemann’s Twelve Fantasias for Solo Flute revealed “for the first time that this was an instrument able to weave from its single line of melody a vast harmonic tapestry, full of colour and emotion.”4 Of Telemann’s autodidact skill it was written that he “did not search for notes, but rather the notes searched for him.”5 And in “Soliloquy,” Lacey gives the volunteers the chance to be such a flurry of notes, seeking and sought, simultaneously. To make their movements their own soliloquy.
I pluck words from Telemann’s autobiography and make of them a soliloquy. Had he ducked into the Recital Centre, upon beholding the warmth, generosity and pureness of it all, his diary would bear the lines: “One would hardly believe what wonderfully bright ideas such a piper and dancers are apt to get when they improvise, ideas that would suffice for an entire lifetime.”6
“For a time in my adolescence I was possessed by a recording of Frans Brüggen playing the first of Telemann’s Twelve Fantasias for Solo Flute. Something about the incantation of its opening was bewitching. I played it for my cousin’s funeral, the only thing I could think of to ease all that family pain. I never learned the other eleven properly. The first was too tightly wound with grief for me to imagine a relationship with any of the others.” Genevieve Lacey, “Soliloquy.”
Genevieve Lacey, “Soliloquy.”
Friedrich Wilhelm Marpurg in response to Telemann’s comment, “the notes have sought me almost as soon as I have looked at them,” Legende einiger Musikheiligen (Cologne: Peter Hammer, 1786; repr. Leipzig: Edition Peters, 1977) cited by Steven Zohn, “Images of Telemann: Narratives of Reception in the Composer’s Anecdote, 1750-1830,” The Journal of Musicology, 21, 4, 465. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/jm.2004.21.4.459, accessed November 23, 2018.
When the court moved to Plesse [now Pszczyna], an Upper-Silesian area which the Promnitz family governed, I became acquainted there and also in Krakau with Polish and Moravian music in its true, barbaric beauty. In the common inns of the region, the instruments consisted of a violin which was strapped to the body, tuned a third higher than usual, and which could ‘outscream’ a normal violin, a Polish bagpipe, a bass trombone and a regal. In fancier inns a regal would not be used, but the first two were increased in number. I had once heard 36 bagpipes and 8 Polish violins playing together. It is impossible to imagine the fantastic musical ideas they presented between dances when the dancers rested and the musicians ‘jammed’ together to fill out the time. Anyone who paid very close attention could pick up in 8 days sufficient musical ideas to last a lifetime.” Georg Telemann on Polish piping and fiddling in 1705, translated by Thomas Braatz, 2009, 11, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Other/TelemannEPMattheson.pdf, accessed November 23, 2018.