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Gary Carpenter

Publisher: Chester Music

Dadaville (2015)
Chester Music Ltd
Sub Category
Large Orchestra
Year Composed
6 Minutes
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Programme Note
Gary Carpenter Dadaville (2015)
I encountered Max Ernst's 'Dadaville' (1924) at Tate Liverpool by chance and was immediately intrigued; it looked like a painting but is actually a sculpture of a seemingly impenetrable iron wall that is in fact made of a cork so fragile that it is kept behind glass for fear it might crumble if touched. Above the ‘wall’, we observe what may be blue sky and white clouds. The sculpture is rich in ambiguity.

My piece Dadaville lasts just under seven minutes and is scored for an orchestra that includes extensive percussion and a baritone saxophone. It begins with a muted violin melody that in various incarnations permeates the entire piece. An energetic section follows based around the notes D and A; notes which stubbornly pop up throughout irrespective of context and environment (and where else might the notes D and A live other than Dadaville?). A gritty, aggressive segment gravitating around D flat and A flat (D and A at Baroque pitch?) ensues. A genial woodwind/celesta bridge leads to a dreamlike statement of the opening melody (solo violin/cello then flute/horn) that in turn introduces the tuba’s infinitely variable 9-bar ground-bass-like figure (or groove if you prefer) which passes from instrument to instrument to the end of the piece (under the bonnet, the number 9 and its multiples have structural and symbolic significance –Dadaville [9 letters] is 180 bars long, for example). Whilst writing Dadaville, I often pondered what else (another D and A?) might live behind this iron-cork wall. The penultimate bar fleetingly hints...

Programme note © 2015 Gary Carpenter

Gary Carpenter’s well-crafted and witty Dadaville, inspired by Max Ernst’s 1924 painting in Tate Liverpool, began with spiky modernity and metamorphosed into a brilliant funk ending with a dazzle of indoor fireworks: a clever and serious first premiere of the season... ...Carpenter (born 1951) has a lot of musical voices, all interesting.
Fiona Maddocks, The Observer,26/07/2015
Carpenter’s new piece was a terrific orchestral scherzo showpiece, scored and paced with real mastery.
Paul Driver, The Sunday Times,26/07/2015
The world premiere of Gary Carpenter's BBC commission Dadaville (a response to Max Ernst's 1924 relief) proved an engaging juxtaposition of eerily ethereal timbres, and exuberant jazzy rhythms, built fugato-like and with assertive punctuations from a huge bank of percussionists. Carpenter joins the phalanx of composers who have penned something similarly attractive, not least Mark-Anthony Turnage, and I doubt its surprise firework-fizzing ending can ever be repeated.
Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post,20/07/2015
Gary Carpenter’s six-minute Dadaville was just as light, but whereas Nielsen’s piece was guilelessly jolly, Carpenter’s was flecked with a dark, syncopated glamour that was hard to place, as if a film noir score had been crossed with the spirit of 1920s Berlin. The word ‘Dada’ is a gift for a composer with a taste for musical punning, which Carpenter certainly is. He rung the changes on the notes D and A with entertaining ingenuity, the piece eventually building to riotous a complication of polyrhythm which ended in a literal burst of fireworks in the balcony.
Ivan Hewett, Daily Telegraph,18/07/2015
Inspired by a sculpture by Max Ernst that looks like a forbidding iron wall but is actually made of cork, it’s a piece about deceptive appearances that progresses from its creepily sweet strings-and-harp opening to a passage of considerable rhythmic violence, its mood gradually turning more jubilant and its final chord coinciding with a burst of indoor fireworks from the balcony. Attractively scored, it was ritzily done.
Tim Ashley, The Guardian,18/07/2015
One of the best new pieces to be premiered on a first night for years, Dadaville was inspired by an enigmatic painted relief by Max Ernst. Carpenter saw it at the Tate in his home town, Liverpool, and imagined what might be behind its strange, iron barricade. He came up with this six-minute soundscape that began with whispering strings and gradually disclosed what sounded like 50 mechanical toys coming to life, until exploding into a full-blown jazz riff with wild solo breaks for brass. The surprise was the ending: a whoosh of fireworks erupted from the Albert Hall’s balconies. Gimmicky? You bet, and I loved the audacity...
Richard Morrison, The Times,18/07/2015
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