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Excess (CD) Interference

Interference

Richard Barrett

  • Year of composition: 1996-2000
  • Duration: 12:59
  • Instrumentation: contrabass clarinet (voice, bass drum)
  • Commission: Elison

Stereo

ISRC CAA4J1810015

  • 44,1 kHz, 16 bits

Some worded notation for a performance guide found in the printed score are: “oracular; rapid ululation; yodel; febrile but meticulous; destabilisé; unstable and obsessive; half-whispered; explosive and distorted; wild fluctuation; austere and inscrutable; rapid muttering; incoherence; distant and receding…”

The title refers to the patterns produced by interacting beams of electromagnetic radiation or subatomic particles, as in the famous “two-slit experiment.” This experiment, simple and straightforward in itself, nevertheless has deep and unresolved implications for the nature of physical reality, leading as it does to the mysterious and (presently?) unanswerable question of what is “really happening” at the quantum level of space and time.

Such ideas permeate the structure of the composition in numerous ways, as for example at the first entry of the contrabass clarinet, where two ascending scales are repeatedly superimposed on one another in different transpositions, “interfering” with one another in the sense that any common pitches between them are cancelled out and disappear.

The Latin text of the vocal part is from Lucretius’ poem De rerum natura (“On the nature of things”), and describes the sudden and violent destruction of the world, though under what circumstances and for what reasons is unclear, since the crucial lines before the chosen fragment have been lost.

Interference is also a work of speculation in that the contrabass clarinet itself is a relatively “unknown” instrument, especially in a solo context. In adding to the already unprecedentedly virtuosic contrabass clarinet part a hardly less intricate one for the same performer’s voice, as well as a pedal bass drum, to date Lori Freedman is only the fourth player in the world to perform this piece. Interference proposes a particularly intense form of engagement by the performer and, while this is the result of developing specific rehearsal techniques demanded by the intricate notation, it draws crucial inspiration from the practice of free improvisation, on which Lori and I have been collaborating since the 1990s.

Richard Barrett

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