The latest issue of Boulevard Magenta (an art magazine published by IMMA) comes with a CD of music by Gerald Barry, an Irish composer of contemporary music – two long pieces and two short, composed in the years between 1977 and 2002. I was very struck by one of the longer pieces, Things That Gain By Being Painted. It has a woman's voice, mainly talking but occasionally breaking into random notes, telling us about various things she likes and dislikes, with a very slight musical accompaniment. I had the vague idea it might be an adaptation of something by Tennessee Williams or another of that lot, mainly because the woman has an accent suggestive of origins in the American South. But actually no, the text is taken from the pillow book of Sei Shonagon*. I like this a lot – there is a mesmerising quality to the rather affected sounding woman sounding off about all the things she likes and the things she simply cannot abide.
I was also rather taken by one of the shorter pieces, L'agitation des observateurs, le tremblement des voyeurs (M. Barry – il parle bien le français, uh huh huh). It consists of series of staccato notes played on a variety of instruments, with short gaps of silence in between. And, when you listen on headphones, what sounds like crowd noise or the sound of people fidgeting. Maybe this is a performance art piece where, in live performance, they keep poking the audience to cause agitation among them; that would rock.
Can anyone tell me anything further about Gerald Barry? I seem to recall hearing about him writing an opera called The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant, an adaptation of a Fassbinder film. Did anyone reading this see it when it was on in London?
Pandas that gain by being painted
An inuit panda production
* Reader's Voice: "So you are unfamiliar with the work of Sei Shonagon, the sage of Alabama?"