Music for Glass Cabinets
About the work
These eleven short movements for three flutes were commissioned by the Devon Philharmonic Orchestra and the Royal Albert Memorial Museum for premiere, as an installation, at the commissioning venue on 7 March 2020.
The Royal Albert Memorial Museum houses artefacts that tell the story of Devon, from prehistoric times to the present day, plus all sorts of other cultural and historical treasures from across the world: Egyptian mummies, Aztec clay stamps, 19th century ceramics from China and Japan, echinoderms, stuffed birds and so much more.
The commission was originally to write something inspired by one of these hundreds of artefacts. I could not possibly choose. Furthermore, the performance was to take place in the space, surrounded by many items, rather than just one. I wanted to celebrate thespace itself, and its curation, as much as its contents. So I have created something that celebrates the museum as a whole – its many collections, its spaces and the act of curation. Composition is, in many ways, an act of curation. (All the notes I have used existed before and have been handled by many others over many hundreds of years. I have simply put them together in various combinations.) Each of the eleven movements is curated like one of the museum’s glass cabinets. Like the cabinets, they are all of different sizes and shapes. Each has its own collection of artefacts (themes). The movements are in some respects contrasting, but there is also a latent commonality throughout, borne from the creative act of curation. And there is repetition: as when one walks casually around the museum, we occasionally find ourselves coming back to something again, but now from a different perspective.
I owe a great deal of thanks to Leo Geyer and Gillian Taylor for all their support, advice andinspiration in completing this work.