Jim Hiscott Dancing on Wings of Fire with WSO, 1992 (José Lopez-Dabdoub) All composers create differently. Winnipeg composer Jim Hiscott prefers a hands on approach. When he travels, he goes out of his way to meet the locals, and sometimes he even learns a foreign instrument. Then he goes home and creates a new work.
Twenty years ago, Jim went to Bali, where he experienced the culture of that Indonesian country first hand. His time there had a major influence on the creation of his highly successful work "Dancing on Wings of Fire".
Jim is at McNally Robinson to speak about the Balinese influences on his work - Tuesday October 18 at 7:30 p.m.
SCENE asked Jim to share one of the stories that inspired Dancing on Wings of Fire.
We were in our rented van, driving our music teacher, his gamelan co-director, and two beautifully-dressed Balinese dancers.
In front of us was an open truck with all the other members of their Gamelan Semar
Pegulingan orchestra and their instruments.
We were on our way to a private performance at the home of the Balinese representative to the Indonesian parliament. And we were running out of gas...
But it all worked out and we had front-row seats to an unforgettable concert.
My wife and I were in Ubud, Bali, taking lessons on Balinese gamelan (metal xylophone) instruments-- gangsas and genders.
At the same time, I was writing a new concerto for button accordion commissioned by the
Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra for their first New Music Festival.
While in Bali we were invited to a Balinese Hindu cremation ceremony. It lasted for three days, and it was an indelible experience.
The care of the relatives for the deceased, and the feeling of warmth and positiveness instead of grief and sadness, made a strong emotional impression on me.
The remains of the departed were encased in huge, multicoloured papier-maché winged lions and dragons, made especially for the cremation.
At the climax of the ceremony, each of these fantastic effigies was set on fire, and the spirit of the departed person rose in the flames to be reborn according to the Hindu cycle of reincarnation.
Because there is no sadness in reincarnation, the experience was about love and devotion.
My concerto, Dancing on Wings of Fire, was named after this experience. The Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, Bramwell Tovey and I gave the premiere at the Centennial Concert Hall the following January, and it eventually was recorded for their CD "Collage".
We also brought back from Bali a set of four gamelan instruments, the ones we had learned on, hand-crafted by our teacher, I Wayan Lantir.
My next challenge would be to write for these instruments, and to find my own voice in a music tradition from the other side of the world.
Jim Hiscott (Jon Snidal)
Jim Hiscott just returned from spending a year in France. While there he attended a composition conference in Zagreb, Croatia. And he spent time in Corsica researching a piece he is working on.
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