Composers: Cameron Lam
Compositions: The Art of Disappearing
Performers: Jenny Duck-Chong ms, Geist String Quartet
Catalogue Number: kammerklang.com

The Art of Disappearing is a work for string quartet and mezzo-soprano by Cameron Lam (b. 1989), a Sydney-based composer and artistic director of hybrid-art production company Kammerklang. It comprises four instrumental pieces and eight songs, setting poems by Sarah Holland-Batt from her first book Aria (winner of the Judith Wright Poetry Prize).

Like many works in the lieder tradition, The Art of Disappearing is personal and contemplative, telling stories of reminiscence, loss and grief. Holland-Batt’s words are given life by mezzo-soprano Jenny Duck-Chong, co-founder of Halcyon. Her beautifully measured delivery and bell-like purity works with the strings so well that at times it seems all might be emanating from the same breath. This is a reflection of the close partnership between Lam, Duck-Chong and the Geist Quartet, whose nuanced and thoughtful performances are indicative of a real depth of involvement.

The recording is intimate and close, spacious and appropriately crisp without being clinical and allowing the dark subtleties of instrumental and vocal inflection to coexist freely. An all-Australian production, The Art of Disappearing is infused with a Northern European sensibility – dark, emotional, restrained – due in no small part to what Lam describes as the arresting nature of Holland-Batt’s poetry: “It sang all by itself and I just wanted to add to that.”