Composition for Mouths (Songs My Mother Taught Me) I & II

Composition for Mouths (Songs My Mother Taught Me) I & II, 2018

Single-channel video with sound

Performers: Clive Birch, Tim Moriarty, Alyx Dennison and Sonya Hollowel

Commissioned by the Biennale of Sydney with generous assistance from Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac and the British Council.

As part of the 21st Biennale of Sydney Oliver Beer will exhibit two new works: Composition for Mouths (Songs My Mother Taught Me) I & II, 2018 at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. These two films are a direct response to Beer's unprecedented access as artist in residence at the Sydney Opera House. Exploring ideas of cultural memory and ‘inherited music’, Beer asked singers to recall the earliest songs they remembered from childhood, incorporating the melodies into new compositional forms. Joining their lips in a tight seal to create a single mouth cavity, the singers explore the resonant frequencies of each other’s faces as well as the architecture. They blend their voices to create rhythmic microtonal harmonic interactions known as ‘beats’ whilst combining adapted forms of their remembered music.

In Composition for Mouths (Songs My Mother Taught Me) I, a tenor singing an Indigenous song learned from his aunts as a child is juxtaposed with another singer’s earliest musical memory, the children’s hymn, ‘Two Little Eyes to Look to God’. 

 

In Composition for Mouths (Songs My Mother Taught Me) II, two sopranos merge an Indian classical raga and a melody by eleventh-century composer Hildegard of Bingen.