Comedy of Change, The


chamber ensemble of 12 players
Ballet/Dance, Mixed Chamber Ensemble
fl( - hn.tpt(=in D) - perc(1): mar/vib (with bow)/glsp/rin(Japanese brass bell cup shaped in Bb)/2 c.bell/susp.cym (with bow)/metal chimes/whip/newspaper/tam-t (with superball) - harp - synth - 2 vln.vla.vcl.db

Commissioned by Rambert Dance Company, Het Concertgebouw for Asko|Schönberg and The Drummond Fund which is administered by the Royal Philharmonic Society

First Performance
8.9.09, Het Concertgebouw, Amsterdam, The Netherlands: Asko|Schönberg/Oliver Knussen

Score 0-571-53832-0 on sale, parts for hire

Programme Notes
The Comedy of Change was commissioned by the Rambert Dance Company and Het Concertgebouw, for Asko|Schönberg, with financial assistance from The Drummond Fund (which is administered by the Royal Philharmonic Society) and the PRS Foundation. The music takes as its starting principle the idea that all things change, in one way or other, at some speed or other. Looking at nature – whether at animate or inanimate – proved a vital stimulus for developing various kinds of musical change and evolution. What intrigues me about animate nature is the way daily needs (the need for food, for shelter, for procreation) can provoke change of both behaviour and physical appearance. This is one of the first things Charles Darwin noticed on the Galapogos Islands: some giant tortoises had evolved sharply curved shells and longer necks to enable them to feed on vegetation which grew higher up on some of the islands. However – and this is something perhaps Darwin himself was puzzled by – the extreme and strange lengths to which some animals will go to attract attention is beyond all purely ‘evolutionary’ needs. Hence the title: the word comedy is to be understood in all its meanings, including the old Elizabethan one of a series of misunderstandings with a happy outcome. There are seven movements in the work but some are played without a break: I (short break) – II and III – (short break) – IV and V – (short break) – VI (short break) – VII. Perhaps I was trying in the first movement to illustrate the unpredictable nature of change in a single musical statement - evolving gradually from very short sounds into a lively polyphonic dance: 20 million years in 3 minutes, as it were! And perhaps the extremely slow second movement was inspired by the lumbering movements of the Galapogos giant tortoises. Perhaps too the movements, songs and flights of birds were behind some of the faster movements: the lively repeated clarinet melodic figure in the Vth movement may be a case in point. But in general I preferred not to be too literal or illustrative: I hope the musical harmonies, textures, rhythms and melodies will be vivid enough to suggest to listeners their own images; or else heard as the abstract music they perhaps essentially are. Julian Anderson

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