Bachtrack is asking the same six questions to many composers this month as part of its focus on contemporary music. Here’s what Gerald Barry had to say.

Gerald Barry © Betty Freeman
Gerald Barry
© Betty Freeman

1. What influences are important to you and your music? Do you choose them, or do they choose you?

Hymns have been important since my childhood. I didn’t choose them and they didn’t choose me. They were just there.

2. What (if anything) do you want listeners to take away from your music?

Joy.

3. Is there a composition of yours which you are most satisfied with? What makes it successful?

My first opera, The Intelligence Park. It is joyful, exciting, happy, sad, completist, completely memorable, full of beautiful melodies, harmonies, counterpoint, apoplexy, humour and ecstasy.

The Intelligence Park, from Act II, scene I, “Gatto cieco”; available on NMC Recordings

4. How important is new technology to you as a composer?

It isn’t.

5. What music do you enjoy listening to?

Satie, Feldman, Obrecht, Schubert.

6. How is composing changing, and where do you want new music to go in the future?

I never think about that. I don’t want music to go anywhere.

Gerald Barry was born in Ireland in 1952 and studied composition with Stockhausen and Kagel.

Barry’s first opera, The Intelligence Park (recorded on NMC), commissioned by the ICA, was first performed at the 1990 Almeida Festival, and a second opera, The Triumph of Beauty and Deceit, written for Channel 4 Television, opened the 2002 Aldeburgh Festival, followed by performances in London and the Berliner Festwochen conducted by Thomas Adès. A new staging took place in 2013 at the Badisches Staatstheater Karlsruhe. In 2005 The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant (recorded on RTÉ) was given at English National Opera and in 2007 at the Basle Opera. La Plus Forte (“The Stronger”), a one-act opera on the Strindberg play, was commissioned by Radio France for the 2007 Festival Présences. Sung by Barbara Hannigan, it toured to Amsterdam, London, Dublin, Miami and Toronto. The first staging took place in London in 2013 at the London Contemporary Music Festival, sung by Allison Bell, and there will be a concert performance at the Helsinki Avanti Festival in 2014 with Barbara Hannigan.

His fifth opera, The Importance of Being Earnest, was written for the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Barbican, London. After concert performances in Los Angeles and the UK, the première staging took place in Nancy, followed by new productions in London and Ireland. It was awarded the 2013 Royal Philharmonic Prize for Large Scale Composition.

His orchestral work No other people, was performed at the BBC Proms in 2013. Music Viva, Munich has commissioned a piano concerto for November 2013, to be followed by performances in Aldeburgh, Birmingham and Helsinki in 2014.

His latest work is Humiliated and Insulted, commissioned for the Canadian pianist Stephen Clarke.

A new opera, Alice’s Adventures Under Ground, will appear in 2016.

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