Gnomonic Refrain | John Abram

A Gnomon is the part of a sundial which casts the shadow. In addition to its usual meanings of restraint and a recurring phrase, refrain, derived from the Provençale word refranh, means birdsong. I find the idea of birdsong as a sort of incantation very appealing. The ritual walks of the Australian Aboriginals have a similar purpose to the songs of birds, as Bruce Chatwin eloquently described in his book The Songlines–the individual or tribe is in a sense defined by the “song” of their walk. In a similar way, a bird’s song announces identity and territory.

Gnomonic Refrain was written in 1999 for the Calgary ensemble Rosa Selvatica, and was first performed by them in that city’s Eckhardt-Gramatté Hall on September 20th 1999.


© John Abram 2017