What to say about CONSTRUCTION? Its inception and formalisation into a project lay in the chance meeting with festival director Robyn Archer late one evening in 2005 at Melbourne's ABC studios while Richard and I were recording and editing a portrait disc of his solo works for NMC records. Serendipity- I just love it!
The work and its subsequent development tracking to the eventual premiere performance at HCMF in 2011 took an interesting path as Richard,I and ELISION moved from country to country in the intervening years.
The following film, facilitated by the United Kingdom's SOUND & MUSIC and shot by Dave Holloway of Medlo, is a relatively rare document giving a composer's broad thoughts upon a major cycle just prior to the world premiere.
The film footage has some close shots of the amazing Graeme Jennings absolutely caning the violin and displays of the vocal brilliance of Deborah Kayser and Ute Wassermann. In fact the entire ensemble comprises a unique gathering of stellar talents and its great to have our fifth appearance at HCMF since 1996 recorded this way.
Personally, as a E-guitarist, I can tell you that CONSTRUCTION has a lovely little monster of an E-bow solo in its early moments and later on introduces the electric lapsteel to the ensemble. Lots of fun! - Daryl Buckley
CONSTRUCTION is a two-hour composition involving twenty-two musicians and a sixteen-channel sound installation. Its principal “theme” is the relationship between idealised “utopian” cities and real ones, between pristine visions abstracted from history and the violent disruptions, even total destructions, which mark the evolution of human conurbations. This basic tension, drawing from literary, philosophical, and political tracts, forms a discourse explored in this multifaceted composition.
It is a “construction” in twenty components, formed from four five-part “cycles” which interlock and reflect upon one another in many ways.
Cycles 1 and 2 consist respectively of five mostly instrumental and five electro-acoustic pieces relating in diverse ways to “utopian” ideas - including Francis Bacon’s New Atlantis; Plato’s Republic; William Morris’ News from Nowhere; Tommaso Campanella’s City of the Sun; the surreal cities of Giorgio de Chirico, the “invisible” ones of Italo Calvino and the dream-architecture of Francesco Colonna; the ideal societies of Aldous Huxley’s Island and Farid ud-Din Attar's Conference of the Birds; and finally “Germania”, Hitler’s vision for a new capital city, before the final part of the music undergoes a transformation into free improvisation – the only possible “hopeful” conclusion being for the musicians as a collective to find a way out, or a way forward.
Cycle 3 is a highly-compressed setting of fragments from Euripides’ The Trojan Women, almost like a series of fragments from an “opera”, the rest of which remains unheard, or lost: the action takes place before a city laid waste by the Greeks between women about to be shipped out into slavery and forced marriages, their husbands killed in the war and their children murdered.
Cycle 4 is a five-movement composition for solo violin and ensemble, wound, taking the form of a sequence of “laments” with the violin as protagonist.
The sound-installation or “sound-house” derives from an idea in Francis Bacon’s The New Atlantis (1605), where an inhabitant of the New Atlantis is describing technological wonders to the visitor from Jacobean England, including microtones as well as reverberation and diverse other kinds of “sound-processing” - a kind of sonic utopia which can be brought into being now.
While CONSTRUCTION combines some elements of pre-existent “genres” such as opera, sound installation, violin concerto, free improvisation, and so on, it’s intended to be none of these things but a work whose “genre” is entirely the product of its inner identity, whose “message” is complex and multilayered, and eventually decided by the collective rather than just the composer. The ending is indeed intended as an “opening” out into the world outside the work. A work of art isn’t a hermetically (or “romantically”)–sealed entity, cut off from the world around it, like a utopian enclosure, but a field of experience which is part of that world and which reflects upon it, whether consciously or not. If this reflection is a conscious response the result is political art and takes its place in a tradition which indeed includes Greek tragedy.
CONSTRUCTION was commissioned by the City of Liverpool for the 2008 European Capital of Culture. (c) Richard Barrett
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