Program Note

Invisibility for solo ‘cello is part of Lim’s ongoing investigation into an Australian Aboriginal ‘aesthetics of presence’ in which shimmering effects both reveal and hide the presence of the numinous.

The composer writes, “The ‘invisibility’ of the title of the piece is not about silence, for the work is full of sounds. Rather, I am working with an idea of the invisible or latent forces of the physical set-up of the instrument. What emerges as the instrument is sounded in various increasingly rhythmicized ways is a landscape of unpredictable nicks and ruptures as different layers of action flow across each other.

The composition also works with magnifications of these disruptions by intensifying various paradoxical combinations, e.g. playing a string that is lightly touched at a non-harmonic node so that the string vibrates in highly complex ways producing a multiphonic effect. The string doesn’t settle in any one vibrational zone but flicks or flickers (shimmers) between states so that what results is an unpredictable array of different noises and harmonics.

The two kinds of bow used in the piece offer different possibilities of friction, for instance, the stop/start structure of the serrated bow adds an uneven granular layer of articulation over every sound. Like the cross-hatched designs or dotting effects of Aboriginal art, the bow creates a highly mobile sonic surface through which one can hear the outlines of other kinds of movements and shapes. Moving rapidly between places of relative stability and instability in terms of how the cello is sounded, the piece shows patterns of contraction and expansion, accumulation and dissipation, aligning with forces that are at work within the instrument-performer complex.


Liza Lim (b.1966, Australia) is a composer, educator and researcher whose music focusses on collaborative and transcultural practices. The roots of beauty (in noise), time effects in the Anthropocene and…