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Grotesque Cameos
for two pianos

1988, revised 2021

Duration: 8. 37

A transcription and arrangement of the chamber work 'Quartet' originally written in 1988

for the Pipeline ensemble: fl/pic; tbn; vb/xyl/perc; pf

Grotesque Cameos

Grotesque Cameos was influenced by the writings of Mikhail Bakhtin (Rabelias and his world, Indiana Press, 1984 ) and Georges Bataille (Erotism: Death and Sensuality, First City Lights 1986). Key themes from these two books are the grotesque and transgression.


For Bakhtin, fundamental attributes defining the grotesque style are exaggeration, hyperbole, excessiveness, celebration of the lower body and a sense of the carnivalesque. For Bataille, a transgression occurs when a taboo has been violated and for those in power who transgress taboos, believe they have the authority or privilege to do so.  These two concepts provide a point of departure for Grotesque Cameos.


The Grotesque Cameos  consists of thirteen identifiable sections called cameos. A cameo refers to a small role played by a celebrity in a film or when an actor's acting succinctly expresses the nature of a situation or character. In a certain sense a cameo can be seen to be a type of disruption. Both meanings are referred to in the Grotesque Cameos, due to the innumerable ways power expresses itself in society. Each of the thirteen cameos represents a transgression. These become more and more grotesque, ultimately leading to a distorted grotesque parody of itself in the thirteenth cameo. 


The Grotesque Cameos is essentially a set of variations in which the opening theme (bars 1 to 12) undergoes various mutations. Each of these mutations (the cameos) is like a transgression, evoking a wide range of states such as the absurd, comic, arrogance,  duplicity, pompousness, self proclaimed high status, obfuscation or a sense of terror. Implied multiple tempi and the irregular grouping of beats are used to highlight unpredictable environments and situations which for some, can present opportunities for transgressive actions.

Score is available from The Australian Music Centre

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