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The sound of Raasay: Birtwistle's Hebridean experience

Jones, Nicholas ORCID: 2015. The sound of Raasay: Birtwistle's Hebridean experience. Beard, David, Gloag, Kenneth and Jones, Nicholas, eds. Harrison Birtwistle Studies, Cambridge Composer Studies, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 175-205. (10.1017/CBO9781316145326.008)

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I was never going to write a Cuillin Rhapsody; I don't write that sort of music. The importance of landscape and place to the music of Harrison Birtwistle has long been acknowledged by a number of commentators. Jonathan Cross, for instance, has observed that: Specific locations form the starting-points for a number of his works, such as the story of his witnessing a carnival in the medieval Italian walled town of Lucca which generated his trumpet concerto, Endless Parade [1986–7], or the mysterious prehistoric Silbury Hill in Wiltshire which inspired Silbury Air [1977]. In Yan Tan Tethera [1983–4], another Wiltshire hill even has its own music … But perhaps more important for him is a general notion of landscape, and in particular the English landscape. Landscapes, real or imaginary, are ubiquitous in Birtwistle's work. However, the composer himself has been careful to point out on numerous occasions that the role landscape and place play in his music should not be understood on a sentimental level. In his programme note for Silbury Air, for example, Birtwistle firmly asserts that the music ‘is not in any way meant to be a romantic reflection of the hill's enigmatic location’. More recently, in an interview from 2009, he states that: The idea of modern music when I was a kid, particularly in England, was something which reflected landscape. In the case of Elgar, I think that that's something that has been imposed on it, it's English so this is what landscape sounds like – but in fact a landscape doesn't sound like anything. That sort of mystical thing never interested me.

Item Type: Book Section
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Music
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
ISBN: 9781107093744
Last Modified: 02 Nov 2022 11:25

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