'The Mask of Orpheus' begins with music being invented. Birtwistle is a composer who talks a lot about getting back to various simple musical procedures - about getting back to basics - about re-inventing the world of music for himself.
"I have made one or two very self conscious decisions to examine very basic material in music. Its music that examines things like MELODY and line, PULSE and BLOCKS OF MUSICAL MATERIAL."
"I would say that Paul Klee's been a great influence. I identified with him in that I saw somebody who really sort of invented painting as if it had never existed. In the compound books of Klee, they usually show the theory on one side of the page and the painting on the other and I found it interesting, the journey between the theory and the painting, how he enriched his pallet. I don't just mean the pallet of the painting but his whole world of expression. And this is pretty important to me."
Birtwistle has expressed his ideas about melody in a straightforward, almost visual way - as line, as horizontal music as opposed to vertical music.
"I think about melody in the way that I think about all aspects of music - in a very basic way. I would say those melodic ideas come from things like Paul Klee - that sort of way of thinking about melody, not in a nineteenth century way. I think I see the idea of the horizontal aspect of music, of melody if you want to call it that, from the fact that I was clarinet player. I do think of music melodically. I don't think that's something I have a reputation for but nevertheless its true."
Many of Birtwistle's pieces are concerned with the manipulation of the most basic musical element of all - pulse.
"Pulse is something we associate in primitive music and popular music. Its something which is regular, its something you get off on and you forget about. I tend to never let the listener get off on it. It's always reasessing itself and becomes a sort of arithmatical thing, but then again, a lot of things in music are arithmatical!"
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