Australian composer Bruce Crossman, who self-identifies his music as being heavily influenced by Christian, Eastern, and naturalistic spirituality, is today’s next featured artist in “The Inside Story,” a blog series exploring the inner workings and personalities of our artists. Read on to see what his dream job would be.
If you could spend creative time anywhere in the world, where would it be?
I love going to Japan, especially Tokyo. In some ways, it is a very subtle and laid back culture and yet in others, it is full on vibrancy, of life coming straight at you. I am thinking here of trying to cross Shibuya crossing with my wife—it was like trying to cross a raging torrent, I just held onto my wife and went for a swirling swim to the other side! That type of vibrancy—ranging from Cosplay to grey-suited businessmen to teenagers in designer tats, was exhilarating. Tokyo is made up of these discreet boroughs arranged along the ancient property lines of the city; so even though it is large, you always feel like you are spiraling into a discreet Oku moment of discovery, where the sheer quality and imagination of what you discover is exhilarating. This year, the comedic qualities of Kabuki—pretty obviously a complex love triangle with modern parallels—was subtly rich with its amazing body expression and exhilaratingly economical musical gestures. Like the city, each musical and theatrical gesture was placed in an exact moment of being in relation to the whole. This subtle richness and moments of discovery make me want to create.
In the event of a zombie apocalypse, what are the three things you absolutely can’t live without?
I could not do without my wife, my Christian faith, or a piano where I can improvise and express what I feel. Obviously, my wife is good at killing zombies, very beautiful and makes me much wiser than I actually am. I think without my soul mate to reflect on life with, I would feel lost. My Christian faith is a constant anchor for my life, which renews my spirit and mind, fills me with hope for the future, and causes me to think of others and the rich possibilities that life has here and for the future. I think if I did not create through improvisation and notation through my piano, I would feel bottled up and shut down; I need my piano to able to express and process the flow of life and its rich possibilities.
If you could do any job in the world and make a living at it, what would that be?
I love the job I have at present working at Western Sydney University in Australia, which affords me time to create, mentor composers and musicians, and is very trusting of me to organize creative projects involving musicians, poets, visual artists, and filmmakers. I think it is a great privilege to be able to pass on the rich creative experiences I have had throughout the Asia-Pacific to a new generation of creatives as well as to have time to compose music and travel to China, Korea, and Japan.
What does this album mean to you personally?
In many ways as a younger composer struggling to recognize and develop my own creative voice, there was a long journeyed process encouraged by many generous people within the Asia-Pacific, including Cambodian-born American composer Chinary Ung and Australian composer Ross Edwards. It became very important to me to not try and be someone else but just to simply be myself in my music, and to express the many riches around me—especially from Asia. This album, Living Colours, is important to me because it represents that journey of internal resonance with the places, peoples and spirit of the Asia-Pacific from the dynamism of the discovery of European heritage interacting with my Asian-Pacific locale from emergent colours through into wriggling, living colors and spirit born of the sonorous and visually rich places of the Asia-Pacific.
Is there a specific feeling you want listeners to tune into when hearing your work?
Yes—I would like listeners to feel the wriggling, living colour changes across rich percussive, intervallic and instrumental combinations across the music and senses the expression of the sonorous cultures of China, Korea, Japan and the Philippines and its connection with spirit and visual gestures of calligraphy and abstract art. I hope the meditative moments and vigorous interactions of improvisatory inspired sounds create life in the listener to uplift them and cause the eyes of their heart to consider the spiritual dimensions of life.
What was your favorite musical moment on the album?
Yes—at about two-thirds of the way through Gentleness-Suddenness, there is a rich moment where the sonorous chordal conglomerations layered with Filipino gong-chimes, Japanese temple bell, and crotales resonances with soaring violin and whispered intimacy of the mezzo-soprano in Chinese Kunqu’s “Zhe yi shatian” (this brief moment) and Judeo-Christian Revelation’s “The Angel showed me the river” is beautifully performed and creates a still moment of reflection within the driving whole.