Reviewed by Paul Kilbey
Colonialism is a numinous presence hanging over Die Stücke der Windrose. It is as if conquistadors have seized all the natives’ compasses and twisted them out of shape. That the cycle began with “East” is no coincidence: it is perhaps the most straightforwardly ironic number. This catalog of orientalisms takes in jaunty Turkish bells, sinuous augmented seconds, klezmer-style clarinet solos and a vampy Hungarian dance, and while these disparate elements are arranged with skill, “East” is a composition cut through with a deliberate sense of randomness that exposes the Western vision of the East for the tacky knock-off that it is. . . .
Review by Paul Kilbey
Who is listening, though? All these albums, really, are whispers. Not that they’re designed to exclude people—it’s just that to hear them, you have to lean in and pay attention. The quietness is structural. And a small audience is surely inevitable for music which, quite literally, doesn’t make much noise about itself. [...] And, indeed, we are all shouted at very loudly even when we aren’t listening to music: walking down the street, we are pitted against reams of exclamation-pointed imperatives—Buy this! Do that! The real challenge is to listen to as little of it all as possible. All of which makes deliberately quiet music a rare thing: something that doesn’t demand your attention, but nevertheless repays it if you give it. Who’s listening? People who’ve decided to concentrate on it.
Review by Paul Kilbey
What are we laughing at, then? The chiselled precision of Wilde’s play, or the roughly scissored wildness of Barry’s opera? Despite the drastically divergent aesthetics, the answer is both: Barry is canny enough never to drown out the original—rather, the opera provides a remarkably effective means of experiencing the play afresh, both justifying The Importance of Being Earnest's canonical status and reinventing it for a contemporary audience. It’s this bizarre, perhaps unexpected sensitivity that is the primary proof that Barry is not in fact a precocious though impish seven-year-old, but rather a highly talented composer . . .