A Deep Blue Shimmering Haze: Kate Tempany
Kate Tempany is a composer, tabla player and community artist, and is currently studying composition as a post-graduate student in the Faculty of Fine Arts and Music. Kate was the 2019 Grainger Museum Composer-in-Residence. Her composition, a deep blue shimmering haze, was created as an interactive soundscape for the exhibition How it Plays: Innovations in Percussion. a deep blue shimmering haze plays on a loop in the gallery exhibiting the interactive Federation Handballs Bell-Field display, designed by students from the Melbourne School of Design Studio 18. Kate's soundscape invites visitors to play the Federation Handbells, and in so doing engaging in acts of co-creation with Kate.
Currently I am very interested in the use of tuned and untuned metal percussion as a point of crossover between harmonically based Western compositional thought, and the timbral, rhythmic and intensely melodic conception of Hindustani classical music. Bells have played a central role in human life for thousands of years; the Federation Bells are an exceptionally resonant instrument both acoustically and culturally. As I compose for a specific physical space within the Grainger Museum, simultaneously I’m learning about how my own musical preoccupations fit within the broader context of landscape and cultural identity in Australian music history. The How it Plays project at the Grainger Museum is a very exciting chance for me to compose in a participatory setting open to the public. I am working on open ended pieces which everyone is welcome to explore, whether by following a graphic score or reading conventional notation.
Percy Grainger described the sound of opera singer Nellie Melba’s voice as having ‘the searching, continuous, trancelike vibrations of the middle-distance blues in Australian upcountry-scapes’. This vivid image inspired me as I began working with the bell sounds. Subconsciously I began to hear the long ‘beats’ of the cluster chords as mountain ranges, undulating forms stretching into the distance – earth waves like the sonic waves of the bells. I was filled with a sense of time on a vast scale, and the feeling of impermanence which often attends such thoughts.