21st Century Oboe
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Richard Barrett: Fold
 

 

Richard Barrett: Fold


Fold was mostly written in early 2012 and is dedicated to Christopher Redgate.

 

The areas of the redesigned oboe which are centrally important in this piece are the extended upper register and the increased fluency with microtones. Its structure is clearly divided into three sections, which in my imagination are embodiments of the same materials but “folded” and unfolded in different ways.

 

An analogy for the relationship between compositional process and result which I’ve often been contemplating recently (and particularly in connection with three pieces for solo instruments completed in 2012 - fold itself, but also vale for solo flute and life-form for cello and electronics) is with the work of the sculptor Andy Goldsworthy. At one point in his film Rivers and Tides, which shows him working on a great diversity of pieces in different landscapes, materials and situations, he makes various failed attempts to build one of his typical pine-cone-shaped cairns from flat stones on a beach in Nova Scotia, attributing this failure to not “understanding the stone”. This made me wonder for a moment whether there wasn’t something rather self-indulgent about what he was doing, being so concerned with this “understanding”, in a kind of private relationship between him and his material. But then came the realisation that Goldsworthy’s “understanding” is exactly what expresses itself to the viewer in the size, shape, texture, colour and situation (to name only these features) of the resulting piece - as well as, crucially, the fact that its structure is stable, at least until winds and tides have their inevitable effect. And then came a second realisation: that this way of looking at things seems strongly related to the way I would look at my own work-process and its relation to the result, and not only mine but perhaps systematic compositional thinking in general. My quasi-physical relationship to the material, my understanding of it, my failure to understand it, my struggle with it even, is what you hear, not in the form of an objective demonstration,, at least not principally in that form, but in the form of the expressivity of its sound and structure: the fact that it doesn’t fall down, or, more precisely, when it does fall down that process has been composed into it, is also part of the understanding, as when, elsewhere in Goldsworthy’s film, a beehive-like structure constructed out of sticks is removed from its rock by the advancing tide, rotated and unravelled by complex currents and finally disintegrates, every movement and fragmentation seemingly choreographed into the material, part of its identity.


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