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ISMN : 979-0-2325-2014-8
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Contemplations was created on Sound and Music's Embedded programme
as part of the Embedded: Radio 3's Composer in 3 project and premiered
in collaboration with BBC Radio 3.
Recorded by Ashley Riches and Sarah-Jane Bradley. First broadcast on 10
A performing score for the voice, with the viola part notated in treble clef
for easy reference, is available on request.
The choice of texts and musical concept for this piece were inspired by
the Kafka Fragments for violin and soprano by György Kurtág.
The idea of composing a response to Kurtág's beautiful song cycle came
to me very early on while preparing to write the ten weekly short works
for my BBC Residency. A true master of the musical miniature, somehow
Kurtág can summon entire worlds within the shortest spans. Indeed,
many of the short movements that make his Kafka Fragments use only a
few words of text and last 30 seconds or less, yet each one somehow
achieves incredible profundity, and absolutely captures the wide range of
emotional and mental states found in the brief excerpts from Kafka's
writings that he uses.
The scoring of my piece, viola and bass-baritone, is intended as a kind of
darkened reflection of Kurtág's violin and soprano.The lower range of the
voice and instrument lends a slightly more sombre, perhaps more mellow
tone, to the music; the opportunity to work with one of the BBC's New
Generation Artists, Ashley Riches, certainly influenced me when choosing
this unusual pairing, but as I began to choose the texts, all of which have
a rather brooding quality, it seemed somehow fitting.
In addition to my admiration for Kurtág, Kafka has also always been very
important to me too. Reading The Trial as a teenager was a life-changing
experience; it was perhaps my first real taste of the power of modern
literature to convey the sense of alienation and existential angst that so
much early twentieth century art does, and it was a pleasure to get to
know some of his lesser known writings in researching for this piece.
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