A potent representation of Australian composer Bruce Crossman’s music, LIVING COLOURS is inspired by his strong spirituality and eclectic, multicultural interests. Both overtly and subtly, Crossman’s music seems to embody the expansive geography of Oceania. To this end, the works on the album draw explicitly on the native music of other Asia-Pacific cultures – particularly the Philippines, Korea, and China – and feature vast musical spaces that seem to symbolize the great distances that separate Australia from its neighbors. In his own words, Crossman describes his desire to evoke a “resonance of space” with his music, which arises from a “deep-felt emotion and sensibility linking heaven and earth.”
Crossman’s works are probing and profound, offering listeners an array of unique, primal listening moments. The sense of space that so deeply characterizes his music is epitomized in the opening of Double Resonances, for piano and percussion. The work begins with an echoing, disembodied piano sound – one of a few special timbres Crossman uses in the piece – which is only responded to by the percussion after a few minutes have passed. Double Resonances also represents one way Crossman makes his music eclectic: the use of non-western instruments.
Here, in addition to more conventional items in the percussion battery, Crossman calls for kulintang – a set of pitched gongs originating from the Philippines – and the ching – a type of Korean Samul Nori flat-gong – among other indigenously Asian instruments. Crossman essentially builds a new musical voice with this enhanced set of percussion instruments, which are paired with the piano to explore resonance in this piece.
Both these instruments also appear in the song cycle Gentleness-Suddenness. The composition may be the most overtly spiritual work on the album, as part of its text is from the Bible. Crossman’s writing features a kaleidoscopic array of musical elements, from instrumental noise common to Western avant-garde music to melodic and rhythmic elements of various Southeast Asian, East Asian, and Cantonese traditions.
The work’s vocal part is similarly eclectic, and mixes Biblical verses in English with Chinese texts and other specialized vocal techniques. At points, the intensity of the variegated sonic palette in Gentleness-Suddenness is overwhelming, which shows Crossman’s uniquely constructed music can be as powerful as is can be meditative.