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Barry Guy

Publisher: Novello & Co

The Eye of Silence (1988)
Novello & Co Ltd
Soloists and Orchestra
Year Composed
28 Minutes
Solo Instrument(s)
Programme Note
Barry Guy The Eye of Silence (1988)
Two diverse sources indicated an approach to fulfil a longstanding invitation to write a solo violin piece for Rosemary Furniss: these being a painting by Max Ernst entitled The Eye of Silence, and the twelve La Cetra violin concertos by Antonio Vivaldi. A commission from John Lubbock and the Orchestra of St John's, Smith Square, enabled me to bring these sources together in the form of twelve pieces for violin solo, two flutes and strings (which closely shadows the ensemble of Bach's 4th Brandenburg Concerto - the original suggestion as the companion work to The Eye of Silence).

Max Ernst's painting impressed me with its strong ambience - a painting in the best surrealist tradition with its various eyes disguised within a precipitous landscape overlooking a serene and reflective lake, where there lay, by implication, hidden dangers.

Vivaldi's magnificent concertos, with great variety and spectacular violinistic articulations, were very important to me; and a study of these works eventually indicated a direction I should consider when writing my own work. Keen to acknowledge these articulations, but equally keen to avoid pastiche, and with the inspiration of Max Ernst, the idea emerged that I could treat the pieces like Ernst's disguised eyes and to contain them within a landscape of my own choosing. In effect, then, certain articulations are "hidden" behind extended string techniques, creating a special sound area.

A distillation and eventual manipulation of Vivaldi's key structure revealed a twelve tone row that formed the basis of the intervallic material and also the durations of the twelve movements. There are six ensemble "types" which appear twice in a palendromic setting - solo violin/strings, 2 flutes/strings, solo violin/2 flutes, solo violin, solo violin/double bass, and solo violin/2 flutes/strings.

To promote a sense of continuity, each piece liberates a "cell" which carries forward to another, whilst internal operations possess a complete structure of their own.

The duration is twenty minutes.
© Barry Guy

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