perc(2): t.bells / 5 tpl.bl / shekere / BD – strings (18.104.22.168.2)
Score and parts for hire
Monolith: I Extend My Arms
A rock-like strata of canons; Monolith: I Extend My Arms came to me as a vision of layered, cyclical material for a large body of strings. Simultaneously dense and translucent, I saw the sound as a cloud-shaped body of rock descending gently and very slowly, like an enormous feather, from sky to earth.
The exterior - sometimes vast and granite-like with quartz sparkles, sometimes opaque and web-like, drifting and coalescing - is highlighted and accentuated by percussion: bells and bass drum. Internal rhythms gradually work their way out from deep within, finally bubbling up and dancing across the rock’s surface.
Claude Cahun’s black and white photograph I Extend My Arms (c.1930) - a pair of arms emerging from inside a stone monolith - perfectly fits the essence of my own work: monolithic but open and/or protective; an idea of divine masculinity.
The ancient rock in Cahun’s photograph evokes the chthonic, essential, primal non-gendered self that Cahun’s many self portrait images express. “Masculine? Feminine?” Cahun wrote in her book “Aveux non Avenus,” published in English as “Disavowals.” “It depends on the situation. Neuter is the only gender that always suits me.”
'As featured composer, Tansy Davies had written an arresting new piece for strings and percussion, Monolith: I Extend My Arms. Its starting point is a monochrome photograph from 1930 by Claude Cahun. The sound world is weighty yet gaseous, earthbound and ethereal, granite-like but translucent and refined. Scraps of melody emerge as if written in invisible ink. Scales bubble up through the orchestra like vapours. Davies achieves this through dense counterpoint, a close shading and cross-hatching of every technique in the string player’s lexicon.'
The Guardian (Fiona Maddocks), 3 July 2021