Dive into the mind of a composer – Eugene Birman on his ‘Adagio’

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This Thursday, the Philharmonia Orchestra, in partnership with the Royal Philharmonic Society, presents the culmination of the 2017/18 Composers’ Academy. On the programme: three world premieres by outstanding winners of the RPS Composition Prizes: Eugene Birman, Freya Waley-Cohen and Austin Leung.

In the Philharmonia’s blog, composer Eugene Birman introduces his new piece, Adagio, and the inspirations behind his music.

So what is it about? That’s simple. I played the Barber Adagio as a teenager; it stuck with me, and not because it is such a ubiquitous thing. It’s because the music is genuine, it’s so expressive and urgent, and despite my aesthetic being a million miles away from Barber’s, I feel very close to it anyway. My Adagio, despite the sprinkles, has very little of Barber’s in it; it is more about the sensation of remembering something happy from my past. It sounds and feels like the firing of synapses in your brain as you reattach to something you love that you are on the verge of forgetting – and them, like a vivid memory, it comes back. Then the Barber really comes, and just as well, it’s all over. Forgotten!

Much later after I wrote it, I remembered a passage from Kundera’s oft-cited The Book of Laughter and Forgetting: “The young man looks into her eyes, he listens to her, and then tells her what she calls remembering is really something entirely different: Under a spell, she watches her forgetting”. This piece is kind of like that. If it would have had a long title, those extraneous, spare words have burnt off and left me with the most clear, most descriptive name possible. Adagio – what it literally means is (from Latin), something to be said.

Read the full post here.

Watch the free performance on Thursday 7 June at Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall.

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