Julian Anderson's 'The Comedy of Change'

Julian Anderson's 'The Comedy of Change'

Few composers experience over 70 performances of a new work within the first 6 months of its composition.  These were precisely the plans for Anderson’s The Comedy of Change. 

Originally a commission from the Dutch ASKO Ensemble, it developed into a joint project involving Rambert Dance Company and its director Mark Baldwin.  Baldwin and Anderson have been collaborators on two previous occasions, but this one – a ballet based on ideas emanating from Darwin’s Origin of the Species – looks like being the most extensive. 24 minutes of music performed by an ensemble of 12 has inspired Baldwin to produce some stunning choreography featuring courtship dances, display and nature’s use of camouflage. Designs are by a leading light of contemporary art, Kader Attia. Don’t miss the Rambert tour under the baton of Paul Hoskins, which visits six venues this autumn including London’s Sadler’s Wells on 3 November. The concert premiere took place on 8 September performed by the ASKO Ensemble conducted by Oliver Knussen.


'It begins with dancers emerging from giant white eggs and ends with the smashing of a tinfoil icon – the victory of reason over religion?  In between Baldwin constructs dance that cavorts and bubbles like cells under a microscope, or parades itself like courting birds...Julian Anderson’s wondrous new score glistens with elliptical rhythms and scatters sounds like stars in the night sky; the costumes are black and white – male v female, light v dark.  On every front, The Comedy of Change bears repeat viewing.’
The Times (Debra Craine), 5 November 2009

Rambert’s bold beast has Darwin in its DNA
‘...Comedy of Change, however, comes at Darwin from a much tougher, conceptual slant.  Choreographed by Mark Baldwin in collaboration with the artist Kader Attia and the composer Julian Anderson, it begins at the bottom of the evolutionary chain with seven dancers emerging slowly from chrysalis pods.  Dressed in unitards (white at the front, black at the back), these figures alternately sparkle against the dark background and recede into it – locked into a dance of camouflage and display.
In many ways, Comedy of Change is all about the dance.  You don’t need to know much Darwin to see the point of its unison formations, mating duets and competing solos.  This is especially true as Baldwin is choreographing at peak form, using the scintillating orchestral colours and clustering rhythms of Anderson’s score to create dense, shape-shifting patterns and to marry soaring lines with quirky detail.
But the work is clearly underpinned by the story of evolution.  Its tight opening quartet makes you think of dancing cellos, and this is followed by a fleeting parade of life forms – quaintly lumbering Galápagos turtles, quick birdlike duets – all underlined by snatches of musical DNA (slow bass and fluttering birdsong) that Anderson snags into his score...’
The Guardian (Judith Mackrell), 5 November 2009

'…a magnificent score from Anderson, such a fine composer, particularly for dance for which he somehow allows air within his sumptuous, highly sprung and yet light-touched music – and a score that, even if it exists thanks to the Drummond Fund for dance commissions, begs also to be played in concert halls.
...Baldwin has created some of his most lyrically serious dance to Anderson’s lyrically serious music, a confident, constantly absorbing flow of invention that often makes something unusually interesting out of simple, uncluttered movements...’
theartsdesk.com (Ismene Brown), 4 November 2009

‘The result is greater clarity despite begin a celebration of Darwin’s On The Origin of Species, a subject that could easily clot a work of choreography.  Instead it has unexpected mysticism, in part Yaron Abulafia’s temple- and void-like lighting, part Julian Anderson’s striking new score, and part Baldwin’s choreography which is a variant on Merce Cunningham’s strain of contemporary hieratics.’
Evening Standard (Sarah Frater), 4 November 2009

'Julian Anderson’s score provides fascinating sonorities...’
Financial Times (Clement Crisp), 6 November 2009

'At first we see lumbering turtles and prancing birds but we also see how individual creatures will cast aside common behaviour if it suits their needs.  It’s a stimulating piece, boldly designed by Kader Attia and furnished with a wonderful score by Julian Anderson...’
www.thisisnottingham.co.uk (Jeremy Lewis), 2 October 2009

‘...The piece is inspired by Darwin’s observation of nature as a moving force, ambivalent and fluctuating – a concept well-suited to music and dance. Describing himself as an armchair ornithologist, Anderson says he became fascinated by Darwin’s observation of how birds indulge in ornate creations that do not always reflect the purpose for which they were intended...The idea of evolution “pushed me towards gradual change [as a determining factor in the music].  I started with one chord – a sonority that, when you hear it, will be three-dimensional.  I worked a lot on it, to get a depth of sound. There are very low notes on bass clarinet and harp, and very high string harmonics, the combination of which leads to a strange sort of resonance.”’
The Financial Times (Andrew Clark), 22 August 2009


For all forthcoming performances of the Rambert Dance Company Tour, click here 

See Julian's profile on the Hear Here! website