COMPOSERS: Barry; Mayo; Molitor; Musgrave and Sawer
ALBUM TITLE: Objects at an Exhibition: Exploring Science, Inspiring Music
WORKS: Works by Barry, Guy, Mayo, Molitor, Musgrave and Sawer
PERFORMER: Aurora Orchestra/Nicholas Collon
CATALOGUE NO: NMC D 215
The premise of the Aurora Orchestra’s Objects at an Exhibition – to let a gaggle of composers loose in London’s Science Museum – has resulted in subtly unpredictable chamber works. No explosions here, but then the composer choice was judicious. Who but Gerald Barry would find a wooden arm with fingers held in an octave? The One-Armed Pianist acquires mysterious poignancy as one obsessive rocking figure is replaced by a bare octave. Thea Musgrave’s intriguing Power Play, inspired by the idea of differently-scaled machines in the Energy Hall, moves from the turning of a large wheel on low pitches to ever-busier, more intricate mechanisms. Christopher Mayo, inspired by a slate statue of Spitfire designer RJ Mitchell, creates in Supermarine an obscure, grinding threnody, plunging us into mechanistic depths with cello, bass and four samplers. The idea that the old BBC 2LO transmitter was originally not permitted to transmit music is seized on by the ever-playful Claudia Molitor, who intersperses documentary speech with the gradual accumulation of ‘non-musical’ instrumental sounds arriving at an epiphanic Handel’s Largo. In Mr Babbage is coming to dinner!, Barry Guy, inspired by the scientist’s own logical flow diagrams, created a giant graphic score, whose phantasmagorical workings are brilliantly rendered here. If Guy lets us into his laboratory, David Sawer’s plain choice of a mail coach (Coachman Chronos) yields the one tour de force of undeniable mastery: I hope it races on to the concert stage.