R I C H A R D  B A R R E T T

Composer, born in Swansea, Wales, 7 November 1959

Publishers: United Music Publishers Ltd, London

Richard Barrett studied genetics at University College London and composition with Peter Wiegold. He subsequently received guidance from Brian Ferneyhough and Hans-Joachim Hespos at the 1984 Darmstadt Summer Courses. He was a member of the composition faculty at the Darmstadt Summer School from 1986 to 1994, and taught composition at Middlesex University in London between 1989 and 1992, and electronic composition and performance at the Institute of Sonology at the Royal Conservatory in Den Haag from 1995 to 2001. He was a DAAD Artist in Residence in Berlin 2001–02 and in 2006 was appointed Professor in the Department of Music at Brunel University.

Barrett was awarded the Kranichsteiner Musikpreis at Darmstadt in 1986 and a Gaudeamusprijs in 1989. He was co-director with Roger Redgate of Ensemble Exposé from its foundation in 1984 until 1993.

As a performer of live electronic music, Barrett has worked since 1986 in the duo FURT with Paul Obermayer. He has also played with many improvising musicians such as George Lewis, Evan Parker, Peter van Bergen, Ute Wassermann, Mary Oliver, Michael Vatcher, and the Music in Movement Electronic Orchestra.

Richard Barrett’s compositions have been performed and broadcast world-wide by leading soloists and ensembles, including Accroche-Note, the Arditti Quartet, ELISION, L’Itinéraire, Klangforum Wien, Ensemble Modern, Music Projects, and the Nieuw Ensemble. His music has been featured at several major festivals of contemporary music, in Amsterdam (Gaudeamus and Holland Festival), Belfast (Sonorities), Berlin (Ultraschall and the Biennale), Brussels (Ars Musica), Graz (Steirischer Herbst) Huddersfield, Melbourne, Paris (Présences), Perth, Salzburg (Aspekte), Strasbourg (Musica), Vienna (Wien Modern), and Witten (Tage für Neue Kammermusik).

Two of the three movements of Barrett’s orchestral work Vanity were premiered by the BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Arturo Tamayo in January 1995 and the whole work was later recorded for commercial release on the NMC label (NMC D041S). Inspired by the seventeenth-century tradition of still-life, "vanitas" painting, the work is in three joined panels, Sensorium, Momento and Residua. Though Barrett’s first large-scale orchestral piece, it was hailed by several critics as one of the outstanding orchestral works of the 1990s.

Barrett has a particularly close association with the Australian ensemble ELISION. The fruits of this relationship include the concert-long work Opening of the Mouth in which he sets poems by Paul Celan for soprano, mezzo-soprano, ensemble and live electronics. Commissioned by the Festival of Perth, Western Australia, it was first performed in March 1997 in a deserted railway workshop transformed with installations by the British artist CROW into a vision of death and decay. The work derives its title from an ancient Egyptian purification ritual intended to restore speech to the dead. Opening of the Mouth has since been performed in Belgium and Germany. A BBC studio recording, broadcast on Radio 3, has recently been released on the ABC Classics label (ABC 465 268–2).

In 1997–98 Richard Barrett was also Composer in Association with Ensemble Champ d’Action, for whom he composed the music-theatre composition Unter Wasser, on a text by Margret Kreidl.

transmission (1996–99)
For Electric Guitar and live electronics
First complete performance: 31 August 2000, Oldenburg, Germany, Daryl Buckley and the composer
Duration: 18–20 minutes
(Part of DARK MATTER – see below)

Interference (1996–2000)
For Clarinet, Voice and Pedal Bass Drum (1 performer)
First performance: 14 May 2000, Brisbane, Australia, Carl Rosman
Duration: 10 minutes
(Forms the solo part of Ars magna lucis et umbrae, in DARK MATTER – see below)

Liebestod (2000)
For Recorder Quartet and live electronics
First performance: 26 November 2000, Hellevoetsluis, The Netherlands
Malle Symen Quartet
Commissioned by the Dutch Composers’ Fund
Duration: 10 minutes

The Empire of Lights (2000–01)
For Fl, Cl, Perc, Pf, Hardanger Fiddle, Vln, Vla, Vc, Db
First performances: 11 October 2001, Ultima Festival, Oslo
Performers: Cikada Ensemble conducted by Christian Eggen
Duration: 9-10 minutes
(Part of DARK MATTER – see below)

khasma (1999–2001)
For 2 Violins, Viola, Cello, Double Bass and electronics
First performances: 11 October 2001, Ultima Festival, Oslo
Performers: Cikada Ensemble conducted by Christian Eggen
Duration: 13 minutes
(Part of DARK MATTER – see below)

stirrings (1999–2001)
For Fl, Cl, Perc, Pf, 2Vln, Vla, Vc, Db
First performances: 11 October 2001, Ultima Festival, Oslo
Performers: Cikada Ensemble conducted by Christian Eggen
Duration: 6 minutes
(Part of DARK MATTER – see below)

For Soprano, 2Fl, 3Cl, Pf, 2Gtr, 2Perc, 2Vln, Vla, 2Vc, Db,
and multi-channel sound projection.
(Doublings include saxophone, chamber organ or synthesiser, and hardanger fiddle. Soprano also plays cello)
Installation by Per Inge Bjørlo
First complete performance: 14 March 2003, MaerzMusik Berlin
Cikada Ensemble and ELISION Ensemble conducted by Christian Eggen
Commissioned by the Cikada and ELISION ensembles and the DAAD
Duration: 95 minutes

Not a concert work nor a chamber opera, DARK MATTER is hard to define in terms of existing practice. The composer and artist have conceived the work as one in which the visual, vocal, instrumental and electronic components are presented in a performance space (not the traditional concert hall) that provides a more intimate and ‘connected’ experience for the audience. The site for the first performance of a provisional version, the Powerhouse Theatre, Brisbane, was transformed into multiple architectural/acoustical spaces. The viewers/listeners were invited to form their own imaginary narrative and to create their own pathway through a labyrinth of installations and sound-sources.

The various texts, spanning five millennia (in chronological order), are derived from early ancient Egyptian creation myths, Greek philosophers and the writings of Lucretius, Blaise Pascal and Samuel Beckett.

It consists of the following compositions, performable separately, which in DARK MATTER are interwoven and overlaid together with new material to create a continuous structure:

The Empire of Lights
(Fl, Cl, Perc, Pf, Hardanger Fiddle, Vln, Vla, Vc, Db)
(2Vln, Vla, Vc, Db and electronics)
De vita coelitus comparanda
(Soprano, 3Cl, Perc, Gtr, 3Vc)
Ars magna lucis et umbrae
(Solo Cb-cl, 2Fl, 2Cl, Chamber Org or Synth, ElecGtr, 2Vln, 2Vc and electronics)
(2Fl, 3Cl, 2Vln, Vla, 2Vc, Db & electronics)
(Reciter, Fl, Cl, Perc, Pf, 2Vln, Vla, Vc, Db)
(instrumental parts as for stirrings)
(Elec Gtr and electronics)

For Solo Cello and live electronics
First performances in 2002: 2 October Strasbourg, 5/6 October Brugge, 16 November Liège, 24 November Wien Modern, 29 November Huddersfield Festival
Commissioned by Musica Strasbourg, Brugge Cultural Capital of Europe, and CRFMW Liège
Duration: 25 minutes

13 Self-portraits (2002)
For String Quartet
First performances: Wien Modern 24 November 2002,
The Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival 29 November 2002
Commissioned by Wien Modern and the BBC
Duration: 20 minutes

faux départs
For Piano and String Quartet
First performance: 13 March 2004, Ars Musica Brussels
Second performance: 14 July 2004, Cheltenham International Music Festival
Ian Pace and Arditti String Quartet
Commissioned by Ars Musica and the Cheltenham Festival

NO (resistance & vision part I) (2004)
For Orchestra
First performance: 11 February 2005, Barbican Hall, London
BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Tadaaki Otaka
Commissioned by BBC Radio 3

New work
For 17 Players and Electronics
Commissioned by the London Sinfonietta for performance in the 2009–10 season



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