week 1 - Kathryn Portelli's

I am VERY excited to launch this project, featuring an artist that is local to my home in the Central Highlands of South Eastern Australia. Kathryn Portelli is a mosaicist and I was immediately drawn to her art. In fact, I found it hard to choose which piece of her art to sound-paint to… I decided that as it’s Spring Downunder, Kathryn’s “Daffodil Spirits” was the zeitgeist.
Below you’ll find Kathryn’s artwork and text, followed by my musical response (sound-painting) and text describing my process.

As this is the first of 52 weblog-posts, I’ve gone into more detail than I will for other posts, so it’s a lengthy post.
Trust it brings you… joy, delight and cheer, at this time of year (said with a sway)

The Art

“DAFFODIL SPIRITS” –  (500mm x 500mm)
mosaic by Kathryn Portelli, (sold)
Materials: ceramic doll parts, Mexican and Italian smalti, glass pebbles, Asian pearl tiles, bluestone chips, honeycomb substrate, welbond glue direct, coloured grouts.

Kathryn’s website: http://www.kpmosaicwords.com/


“Daffodil Spirits” 500mmx500mm, by Kathryn Portelli

Kathryn’s comments

Made in response to the local annual Kyneton Daffodil and Arts Festival. Individual flower postures suggest merriment, movement, even choreography. The concept that the trumpet was a tutu to an invisible spirit became the steering theme for the composition, which placed three dancing blooms, ‘Joy’, ‘Delight’ and ‘Cheer’(actual registered bulb names) against a bluestone wall (which the area is known for).

Their pearlised, finely detailed, three dimensional bodies appear to lift from the background atop vibrant skirts and swaying legs.  Shimmering auras surrounding them portray their movement against a music filled sky.


Daffodil, detail: aura & droplets of happiness


The words JOY, DELIGHT, CHEER are embossed in textured glaze (French Dimensions) along their arms.


In this detailed photo (above), you can see the auras, the body art embossing and that happy moisture they exude into the atmosphere as suggested by the droplets.

The Music

I have always adored daffodils – their ability to make people smile at spring’s promise, while winter is still hanging on; their fragrance and delightful trumpets which Kathryn has so masterfully transformed in this joyous artwork.

Speaking with Kathryn about this artwork was really illuminating for me, not just in terms of her process (I knew so little about mosaic making), but also about her thoughts, inspirations, and intentions with what she wanted to evoke with the piece. I loved her comment regarding the quality of mosaic, that ” it captures a moment and makes it solid”  – so different from my art form of music.

I was memerised by the droplets and auras she incorporated into her work and felt the need to capture those magical aspects of these playful spirits; so I set to work and I couldn’t resist an extended trumpet solo (played on my orange and purple kazoo).

You can listen to my sound-painting for Kathryn’s mosaic using this audio player; just click the orange arrow.


“TRUMPETS IN TUTUS” (2:52 mins) © Helen Davey
a whimsy (for voice, xylophone, chimes, kazoo, whirly gig, xenon pad and music box)

I felt each Daffodil deserved their own character. At first I was going to use “daffodil speak” – fantasy vocalising – but as they already had their own (English) names, I decided to use those names as primary springs for a whimsical lyric.  I went to a thesaurus for the finer distinctions between the words joy, delight and cheer then had fun imbuing these shades of meaning into the adhoc lyric and musical personas of Joy Delight and Cheer.

some of the workings for the composition

some of the workings for the composition

The kooky kazoo is there for several reasons:

– closest thing I have to a trumpet;

– the quirky, fun-loving  sound;

– a strong timbral contrast to the swirly, girly, sheeny sounds, evoking the vibrant, contrasting colours of the artwork;

– because of it’s rasping quality, I find kazoo quite “tactile” and wanted to offer that quality musically as the mosaic is so 3D…

Aside from the kazoo, I introduced other instruments  largely by trying them out until I was happy with what they brought to the overall piece.  Once I’d found the xylophone, everything else fell into place and I could add the other layers.  Here’s my list of sound sources and what they represented for me when creating the music

sound sources: the reason

voices: (SAA & spoken word) for Joy, Delight, Cheer and Silly-Tilly (she’s the one blowing raspberries).
xylophone: for mosaic tiles (and Kyneton’s bluestone),
chimes: for spirit magic,
xenon pad: for auras,
music box: the “happy moisture” Daffodil droplets.
whirly gig: for spirit movement in the wind (…”fluttering and dancing in the breeze…”)
kazoo: dedicated to daffodil tutus everywhere!

I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing “Daffodil Spirits” and hearing “Trumpets in Tutus”.  There’ll be another sound-painting in response to another artwork next week. Thanks for dropping by and feel free to comment and to share this around.

Cheery pops







15 comments to week 1 – Kathryn Portelli’s “Daffodil Spirits”

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>