Recommended listening: BBC Radio 3 New Music Show/James Weeks’ ‘Düsseldorf’

James Weeks’ beautiful new work Düsseldorf was aired on BBC Radio 3’s New Music Show on Saturday 9th May. Performed by the Royal Northern Sinfonia, conducted by Weeks, and recorded by the BBC, Tom Service described the work as ‘made from an exquisite sensitivity to a particular soundscene’.  It is written for flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano and tubular bells.  Weeks says, on the programme: ‘Düsseldorf is a very simple piece in some ways, because it’s a kind of sound postcard of a moment from my life. 

'I was sitting in a garden in Düsseldorf, some years ago …. and it was very quiet, just the sounds of the outdoors, a few birds, that kind of thing, and then one bell from a Church …. began to ring and then it was joined shortly afterwards by a second bell, a different pitch bell, from another church … and that carried on for 5 minutes, calling the worshippers to the service, and then they both stopped at slightly different times, and then the silence descended over this garden.......  And I remember thinking at the time ‘That’s a really beautiful, structured experience, and I would love to re-create that one day’, and so, in a very, very simple way, I did exactly that.  The bells that you hear are just standing in for the bells of the churches, two tubular bells …….  And then there are some other instruments, a flute, a clarinet, a violin, a cello, etc.  which just make these very, very quiet breath sounds and then they seem to enhance or amplify the resonance from the tubular bells as the piece goes on.’  The piano plays a drone by rubbing an Eb string with a piece of wool.  Weeks describes this as creating a very simple scene, which then stops, and ‘that’s all there is to it!’...... James’ work is actually so cleverly and subtly created.  It really does transport you into that tranquil continental summer garden from which you feel the bells gently calling the church goers then oneness only with the sounds of nature.  This is very inspiring and uplifting at this troubling time when, as Tom Service says, ‘That sensitivity to environment and the way the world’s soundscape seems to be changing just now is something we’re all aware of in different ways; you feel lower infrasound than usual from traffic and planes, more birdsong and insect hum, even in our cities.’

Düsseldorf is available to listen to on the BBC Sounds’ New Music Show (at 1:42:15), until June 9th.  

(13 May 2020)

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