Live at the Science Museum

Live at the Science Museum

Music and mathematics were taught together in Europe’s universities for centuries before science and the arts drifted apart. Conductor Oliver Zeffman shows how the two subjects intersect in this live album, part of his Music x Museums series. Its program, performed in the well-stocked space of London’s Science Museum, explored the diverse ways in which composers play with the nature of musical time. It was brought to life by Ozero Ensemble’s 16 players, almost within touching distance of objects in the museum’s Stephen Hawking at Work exhibition. Bach’s intricate counterpoint, the musical equivalent of multivariable calculus, opens the show dressed in shimmering colors supplied by George Benjamin. His arrangement for nine players of a canon and fugue from The Art of Fugue intensifies the music’s twists and turns. Harrison Birtwistle’s Tragoedia (1965) employs often violent textural contrasts to create a work rooted in the world of ancient Greek drama. “It’s very aggressive in some places,” notes Zeffman. “And then there are reflective moments in the middle. It’s a monumental, ritualistic piece.” The concert includes the world premiere of William Marsey’s instantly accessible, meditative Why Do You Grieve, constructed from “programmable” elements of sound that can be extracted, manipulated, and reconstituted in multiple combinations. “Will’s a good friend, but I’ve never had the chance to make something with him before,” recalls Oliver Zeffman. “He was excited by the idea of writing a piece that played with notions of time. And we end with Terry Riley’s In C from 1964, said to be the first minimalist composition, which plays with time by having the musicians repeat 53 phrases at different times as often as they wish.”

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