Thursday, August 25, 2005

Landmarks (7)

Klarenz Barlow*: Orchideae Ordinariae or the Twelfth Root of Truth für großes Orchester (1989). A resynthesis of the late 19th and early 20th century orchestral work. A mixture of the major orchestral forms: symphony, suite, concerto (in this case, piano), ballet, perhaps even B/Hollywood film score. The historical references are polar: Bruckner and Stravinsky, but the methods are often designed from first principles (i.e. orchestrating in terms of the position of the individual player in the orchestra rather than the character of the instrument played), they are often formal and algorithmic. The techniques used are documented in a 26-page article (issue 36 of the Feedback Papers), wherein Barlow's remarks about the aesthetic project represented by the work retain a great deal of mystery.

I may be altogether wrong about this, but I think that the great theme of Barlow's work is the relationship between a musical tradition and a music made from the ground up, for example, from an intuition about acoustics or perceptions. His personal background has allowed him the luxury of distance to the western classical tradition (or to rock or North Indian classical music, for that matter) at the same time that the depth of his engagement with that tradition has become increasingly clear.

*The composer has kept the spelling of his name in a variable state.

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