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A typical portrayal of an alchemist is that of a half-scientist, half-hermetic, naïvely attempting to transmute a common metal into a noble one. But for an alchemist, this transmutation was but a metaphor for spiritual evolution, a personal quest to achieve perfection, immortality, and redemption. Transmutation, then, is subtly different from transformation – to not merely change, but to create something higher, something more perfect. In this work, I explore the metaphor of transmutation, using something familiar to all of us: the sense of time passing. Through reiteration, this work’s sonic material is constantly returning – as a different timbre, with reverberation, echoing, as a distant memory – striving for transmutation. But the ultimate point of return in this work is also its point of departure, a metaphor for the cycle of life and death that the alchemist sought to escape, the ancient symbol Ouroboros, the serpent eating its own tail.
Support for Ouroboros was provided by the Canada Council for the Arts.
This piece was premiered by Rachel Kiyo Iwaasa on February 5th, 2013 at Cellar Restaurant and Jazz Club, Vancouver, presented by Music on Main.
Dr. Iwaasa subsequently performed it on March 19th, 2013 at Jane Mallett Theatre, St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts, Toronto, presented by Music TORONTO.