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“The Spiritual Axis”
2002
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The 24 minute Spritual Axis was written in the late 1990s for Zen Zen Zo for their “Spin”, an actor training exercise developed by Suzuki Tadashi.  The physical aspect involves a slow breathing introduction, then moves into the spin itself.  The participants turn on the spot arms outstretched, gradually increasing to their own maximum speed, then returning to a stand. This takes place over around twenty five minutes.  It is similar in form to the “Dervish” whirling practiced by the Mevlevi Sufis in Turkey. It is at once a meditation and a quickening.

The first section of the piece utilises granular synthesis techniques, “infinite” reverb manipulation and extreme pitch shifting on source material including bells, a recording of a tibetan street parade (including cattle) and several small hand drums.  It is deliberately timeless, as it allows the actors to find their own rhythm of breath.

Part 2 uses flute and koto as its melodic drivers, accompanied by multiple layers of hand percussion, and later strings.  The piece was sequenced using Cubase software and Roland S-760 samplers along with a variety of other sound manipulation software.  The rhythms are hand programmed, rather than loops and vary slightly over the length of the piece.  The tempo gradually increases to almost double the original 80 BPM, and there are several points where the meter appears to break and the drive switches between fast drums and slow melody.

In composition I worked myself up into quite a heightened state during the faster sections, drawing on anger and frustration as primary emotions, and used the slow melodies to forcibly calm myself.  I find the piece very satisfying to listen to now, as I am keenly aware of the slight changes in the beats, the interchange of rhythm and the effect of the slower passages “floating” over the beats.

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