Cal String Quartet Diana Tash Photo
Lao Tizer Quartet Photo
James Rushford
Emerging Artists Series
Piano Spheres Satellite Artist
October 05, 2017

Boston Court's Fall Music Series generously sponsored by Elaine Kramer and Al Latham.

Boston Court's Fall Music Series is made possible in part by the Pasadena Arts & Culture Commission and the City of Pasadena Cultural Affairs Division.

Thursday, October 5, 2017 @ 8PM
Pre-Concert Talk Begins @ 7PM

Tickets are free for full-time students with a valid ID and just $10 for everyone else!

"Meditative" - New York Classical Review

"Particularly Beautiful" - Wire Magazine (UK)

An "independent mind and unique compositional personality" - Paris Transatlantic

This international composer and performer turns his attention, and the aesthetic concept of musical shadow, to a conceptual reworking of Mompou's “Musica Callada” for an evening of unforgettable and extraordinary solo piano.

This concert is presented in partnership with Piano Spheres.

Boston Court's Emerging Artists Series is made possible through generous support of the Lazy L Foundation.

Program Notes

See The Welter is my first major composition for piano, and was written in direct response to a work I studied during my doctorate—Federico Mompou's Musica Callada. It is also my first compositional investigation into the concept of 'musical shadow'. The work interprets and reworks material from Música Callada, in an attempt to further ‘loosen’ the original from its temporal and formal bounds. Although See The Welter has previously been performed alongside Mompou's work, I wanted to perform it tonight as a standalone piece, like seeing a silhouette without its original form.

Compositionally, I undertook a process of ‘sieving’ Mompou’s treatment of various parameters through each other, with the main intention of reimagining duration as a vertical (harmonic) phenomenon. The result is the creation of fourteen melodic fragments that are re-ordered and spliced in various permutations according to their textural and harmonic density (a kind of ‘shading’ through degrees of intensity to saturation).

Formally, the work consists of fifty-six repeated modules of multiple melodic cycles. Each module includes two interwoven melodies, delineated by black and white noteheads. Within each module, the performer is to progress from the sequence of black notes to the sequence of white notes through multiple ‘cross-fading’ processes. The number of repetitions, speed and dynamics of each module can be slightly varied at the performer’s discretion.

The act of reading the score is a challenging improvisational practice for the performer, because multiple melodies need to be interpreted independently in a constant state of emergence or disappearance (i.e. they never arrive at a specific musical or interpretive ‘point’). Each melody becomes a searching in the dark, a chaotic ‘groping’ in (or out of) time. The quality of shading, both within and between the musical lines via their audible emergence and disappearance, becomes the only ‘temporal’ structure, and this structure is itself hidden within predominantly non-linear forms such as repetition (intended as a qualitative ‘spreading’ of harmonic sensation rather than a sequential form) and elastic rhythms that uniquely distort and shade each melodic cycle.

Henri Bergson’s philosophical concepts of intensive magnitude and duration were adopted as conceptual approaches to the writing of this piece. At the centre of Bergson’s inquiry is the clear separation of quantitative (extended) and qualitative (unextended) experience. See The Welter attempts to musically interpret Bergson’s descriptions of visual experiences of shadow. For Bergson, the colour black can act as a measure of qualitative intensity (the opposite of the saturation of white). Psychic intensity could thus be imagined as itself a shadow, one cast upon a multitude of perceptions and memories and altering their qualities without ever ‘coming into view’. The implications of this philosophical image are profound within the context of musical performance and listening, and have fundamentally informed my composing and performing of this work.

Special thanks to Vicki Ray, Piano Spheres and Boston Court for providing me with the opportunity to present tonight's program.


James Rushford is an Australian composer-performer. His work is drawn from a familiarity with specific concrète, improvised, avant-garde and collagist languages. Currently, his work deals with the aesthetic concept of musical shadow.

As a composer, James has been commissioned by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra (Glasgow), Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Ensemble Neon (Oslo), Speak Percussion (Melbourne). Ensemble Vortex (Geneva), Ensemble Offspring (Sydney) Decibel (Perth), Melbourne International Arts Festival (2006/2008), Norway Ultima Festival (2011), Unsound Festival (New York 2014) and Liquid Architecture Festival (2010).

As a performer, he has presented work at STEIM Institute (Amsterdam), Logos Foundation (Ghent), Issue Project Room (New York), Instants Chavirés (Montreuil), Constellation (Chicago), Café Oto (London), Super Deluxe (Tokyo), Monday Evening Concerts (Los Angeles), Cave12 (Geneva), WORM (Rotterdam), Ausland (Berlin), Centre for Contemporary Art (Warsaw), Only Connect Festival (Oslo), Now Now (2011/2012), Adelaide Festival (2014), Bendigo International Festival of Exploratory Music (2013/2014), Melbourne International Jazz Festival (2011) and the Tectonics Festival (Adelaide 2014, New York 2015, Tel Aviv 2015). He has also performed live with the Krakow Sinfonietta, Australian Art Orchestra, Michel Pisaro, David Behrman and Jon Rose.

James has collaborative projects with Joe Talia, Golden Fur (with Samuel Dunscombe & Judith Hamann), Ora Clementi (with crys cole), Oren Ambarchi, Klaus Lang, Kassel Jaeger, Graham Lambkin, Francis Plagne, Tashi Wada, the visual artist Michael Salerno and the writer Dennis Cooper.

His music has been published by Pogus (US), Prisma (Norway), Bocian (Poland), Penultimate Press (UK), Black Truffle (AUS) and KYE (US).

James recently completed a Doctorate of Musical Arts at the California Institute of the Arts.

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