Open music player

Michael Gordon


Cantaloupe Music, 2014

Solid river

Like Timber, Michael Gordon’s work Rushes has an unusual instrumentation – this time 7 bassoons. And like Timber, Rushes is a non-stop, concert-length work that takes the listener on a long, pulsing, meditative journey.

He called the piece Rushes because it refers both to the tall grass that resembles reeds (bassoons have double reeds) and the state of euphoria induced by the music. To get me started, Michael had sent me some pictures of reeds and rushes and some pictures of disassembled bassoons. I worked with both ideas but got frustrated that the results were too literal and didn’t give a sense of the magical quality of the music.

I asked Michael what he had meant when he described the music as a landscape in one of his interviews. He wrote back to me ‘…perhaps it is like a river – when we see a river, or a picture of a river, we can appreciate what we see, but we know it comes from somewhere and continues on beyond our field of vision. The river takes up space and has weight, and we don’t think of music as taking up space, as being something that exists in a concrete 
form – but it is sculptural and spacial, and I think of Rushes as being a piece of sculpture, something that takes up space, because the point is to live in it…’

I started to work with water, especially trying to find images that captured energy at work in water in the form of waves and vortexes. Then, as luck would have it, my husband Andreas showed me some pictures he had come across by an artist living in Los Angeles called Moses Hacmon.

Hacmon takes pictures of water – but he does it without using any light. He has developed a technique using a special type of film with a layer of liquid iron that records the movement of the water itself. The images capture the physicality of water as it moves and flows in a reality that we can’t normally see. Hacmon’s images seemed to uncannily echo Michael’s description of the river sculpture with their wild, abstract forms and at the same time gave a sense of this flowing, otherworldly music.

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