This collection of essays celebrates the work of Sir Harrison Birtwistle, one of the key figures in European contemporary music. Representing current research on Birtwistle's music, this book reflects the diversity of his work in terms of periods, genres, forms, techniques and related issues through a wide-range of critical, theoretical and analytical interpretations and perspectives. Written by a team of international scholars, all of whom bring a deep research-based knowledge and insight to their chosen study, this collection extends the scholarly understanding of Birtwistle through new engagements with the man and the music. The contributors provide detailed studies of Birtwistle's engagement with electronic music in the 1960s and 1970s, and develop theoretical explanations of his fascination with pulse, rhythm and time. They also explore in detail Birtwistle's interest in poetry, instrumental drama, gesture, procession and landscape, and consider the compositional processes that underpin these issues.
David Beard presents the first definitive survey of Harrison Birtwistle's music for the opera house and theatre, from his smaller-scale works, such as Down by the Greenwood Side and Bow Down, to the full-length operas, such as Punch and Judy, The Mask of Orpheus and Gawain. Blending source study with both music analysis and cultural criticism, the book focuses on the sometimes tense but always revealing relationship between abstract musical processes and the practical demands of narrative drama, while touching on theories of parody, narrative, pastoral, film, the body and community. Each stage work is considered in terms of its own specific musico-dramatic themes, revealing how compositional scheme and dramatic conception are intertwined from the earliest stages of a project's genesis. The study draws on a substantial body of previously undocumented primary sources and goes beyond previous studies of the composer's output to include works unveiled from 2000 onwards.
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