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Classical Music Review

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Decade Zero
Works for Instruments & Electronics


Composer: Christopher Biggs
Label: Ravello Records
RRP: £13.99
Release Date: 10 November 2017

Decade Zero is a compilation of works for instruments and electronics by Christopher Biggs. The works integrate traditional instruments with live electronic processing and sound files. Biggs’s compositions focus on environmental, political, and scientific extra-musical concepts relevant to today’s world...

Christopher Biggs's Decade Zero collects together a number of the composer's works and perfectly straddles the line between traditional classical music and a more modern approach. I'm not overly a fan of modern classical music where there's no emotionally charged themes, but here Biggs delivers some beautiful pieces of music which then morph to incorporate electronic segments.

'Recombinant Serenade' is one of this album's most notable examples, opening with a heartbreakingly beautiful piece which slowly incorporates subtle electronic elements.

Featuring the Western Brass Quintet, the title track, 'Decade Zero' explores the last period in time when humanity can take decisive action to combat climate change without facing irrevocable changes to our world. 'Externalities', for amplified cello and electronics, balances a consumer attempting to minimize the negative outcomes of their consumption choices while reflecting on participatory economics. 'Amass', for clarinet and electronics, has origins in the Arab Spring movement and Occupy Wall Street. It reflects on contemporary society’s desire for meaningful change through continuous stratifying and blending of music.

Biggs’s more abstract works, such as the 'Decoherence' for trumpet and electronics, refer to concepts of quantum physics, and 'Recombinant Serenade' features variations on the 'Prologue' from Benjamin Britten’s Serenade for tenor, horn, and strings.

Featuring works based on science fiction, 'A Letter to the Moon' is inspired by Italo Calvino’s short story 'The Distance to the Moon'. 'Promethea', for alto saxophone and electronics, is based on Alan Moore’s graphic novel of the same name.

Even if you normally shy away from modern, electronic manipulated works, it's worth giving this album a try.


Darren Rea

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