Birtwhistle: Crescent Moon over the Irrational

Program Note

Harrison Birtwistle (b.1934)
Crescent Moon over the Irrational (2010)

“I’m concerned with going over and over the same event from different angles, so that a multidimensional musical object is created which contains a number of perspectives. I don’t create linear music … I move in concentric circles. The events I create move as the planets move in the solar system.”

—Harrison Birtwistle

Birtwistle’s desire to view “the same event from different angles” reflects the ideas of Paul Klee—the Swiss-born artist whose style evades categorization through its association with movements ranging from German Expressionism to Dada.  Known as unworldly and mysterious, Klee was a painter who aimed to expand the boundaries of the rational in his art, a reaction to the increasingly technologized world in which he found himself.  A proponent of the idea of the “construction of mystery,” he was fascinated by the unknowns of outer space; his paintings often focusing on geometric forms that float as if free of gravity.  Klee frequently made the moon a subject of his works, such as in his Crescent Moon over the Rational, the title of which gave birth to Birtwistle’s composition.

—Anna Whistler