Life-form - Richard Barrett

for cello and electronics was written in 2012 for instrumentalist Arne Deforce. The live electronic programming was carried out by Patrick Delges at the Centre Henri Pousseur in Liège. The work was commissioned by Concertgebouw Brugge, Centre Henri Pousseur, November Music, and the University of Leiden. As the title implies, the overall form of the piece relates to a contemplation of the metamorphic life cycles of many different kinds of living organisms. The fundamental question posed was how, and to what extent, the processes of diverse organic lifeforms (from the behaviour of single cells or even molecules to the metamorphoses of insects, to the complexity of an ecosystem, to the geological time scale of evolution) can act as metaphors for the development of new musical processes, bringing to “life” electronic sounds, and by extension to new aesthetic reflections on music. 

The music is not intended to illustrate some particular metamorphosis, but to be in itself the “life-form.” is idea is not intended to be illustrative; rather, the sound processes you hear might be compared to the processes of metabolism and catabolism, proliferation, differentiation and decomposition which we see in living (and dead) organisms and in the interactions of entire ecosystems. 

Life-form has a total duration of about 55 minutes and consists of ten sections which alternate between solo cello and cello with electronics. While the electronic part is precomposed, its playback responds to the cello in various ways in the different sections. The cello also undergoes its own “metamorphosis” by being retuned numerous times (sometimes while playing) during the course of the music, and by other transformations such as preparations on the strings, or being played with two bows.

Richard Barrett