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Alice Buckingham

When Still Water Ripples – Reflections of Narcissus

A response to Michael Zavros’ The Sunbather (2015) by Alice Buckingham with references to music by Ethelbert Nevin’s Narcissus from Water Scenes and improvisations by Camerata players.

When Still Water Ripples – Reflections of Narcissus by Alice Buckingham from Camerata’s City in the Sun, performed at Museum of Brisbane. Musicians: Alice Buckingham, Anna Colville, Brendan Joyce, Elias Kokkoris, Helena Wang, Jason Tong, Jonny Ng and Katherine Philp. Filmed by Vanessa van Dalsen. Audio by Luke Woollett.

About Alice’s piece

“When I first saw The Sunbather, I was struck by its peaceful solitude. The longer I stood in stillness, staring at the beautiful image before me, the more it seemed to come to life. The water has a gentle movement, and I wanted to capture this almost-tangible rippling effect. Zavros has said this is an image of himself, lazing by the pool at his Brisbane home, but while contemplating the image the viewer can begin to question – is the man lazing by the water a true representation of the artist, or is it in fact Narcissus, falling in love with his own image in the water? And how much of Narcissus is in all of us, when we gaze upon our own reflection? These are the thoughts I had in mind while improvising my musical response. I stood in front of the painting and sought to replicate the sound of rippling water, by using gentle oscillations of varying pitches above a G drone. I was then curious to find representations of Narcissus in music and discovered a short piano piece written about the Greek mythological figure in 1891 by American composer Ethelbert Nevin. You will hear this melody from the fourth movement of his Water Scenes, entitled Narcissus, in my response. When played slowly, the melody seems to evoke the gentle ripples of water seen in the painting, and the thoughts of Narcissus as he stares into his own reflection. I have placed five of my colleagues around the room to create the effect of the water rippling around the space as the thoughts of the Greek mythological figure fragment in the ripples.”

– Alice Buckingham

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