Ken Baldry's Music

Programme Notes

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Ken Baldry was born on 18th June 1943 and had a patchy musical education from Emile Spira, the Music Master of Isleworth Grammar School, where music had a regrettably low priority. Emile was a pupil of Anton Webern in Vienna until he fled the Anschluss at more or less the last minute and exposed his more interested pupils to the work of the Second Viennese School but Ken's heritage also includes modern popular music. (He was one of the first teenagers, being 13 in 1956 when 'Rock around the Clock' arrived in Britain and teenagers were invented here). From 2009, an Honorary Professor of Composition in Vienna. (All Ken's 50 or so works written before the String Symphony completed in 1991 have been very properly burned).

Symphony for Strings Opus 1

Ken wrote this as a memorial to his first wife Jane. There are four movements, played without a break. It is based on a harmonic motive which opens the first movement and is repeated at cardinal points throughout the work. The first movement an Adagio and is strict 12-tone music (or rather 13 note, as silence is manipulated as if it were a note). The allegro rondo which follows is not so strict and has two slower episodes. The final return of the rondo is quiet and fleeting. Nothing is quite repeated, a charateristic of much of Ken's music. The third movement is a set of variations and the last is in two parts, another slower adagio and a final double fugue on subjects drawn from the second movement.

Verity's Music Opus 2

Verity's Music is a suite in four movements based on a theme of E B F E F E B, which is all white notes yet atonal. Ken wrote a book with a composer called Verity, who was the 1st wife of one of the heros. The music is described in the book and this suite was written as an example of 'her music'. The First movement is essentially allegretto but starts slowly and explores the theme. The Second movement is a scherzo, the Third movement slow and static and ends with a miserable waltz while the Fourth movement is a stoical rondo on a variant of the motto theme with much percussion. The purpose of the music was to explore the possibilities of the Roland CM-64 synthesiser and has been slightly re-scored for the Roland SC-88.

The Rite of Saturn Opus 3

Charles Brewster, then a member of the 'Illuminates of Thanateros', commissioned music to accompany the Aleister Crowley 'Rites of Eleusis', published by the Mandrake Press. This piece was written to accompany the 'Rite of Jupiter', which dictates the form. Unfortunately, copyright battles prevent the publication of the text here, as factions of the Crowley inheritance struggle for control. Brother Capricornus enters and turns out the blue light. He departs and returns withthe red lights. The 1st Probationer recites the Capricornus to the dark 'Oh my God' music which lightens a little towards the end. The 2nd Probationer reads the Aquarius. The music reacts to each verse and bursts into glory for the postlude. Brother Capricornus changes the lights again and Magister Templi beats his staff three times. Then Brother Capricornus recites 'Even as the Traitor's breath' (track two) to a symphonic movement based on the 'Oh my God' music. Brother Capricornus then attempts to wake the Magister Templi to hard chords. He fails but the Mother of Heaven does it to her sinuous unaccompanied melody.

The Heavy Metal poem 'Dead Pharaoh's Eyes leads to the midnights scene and the lengthy unwinding of Swinburne's 'Ilicet' (track three) which develops the Mother of Heaven' theme'. The participants explore the horror of their situation. To icy strings, the Magister Templi recites the 'Colloque sentimental' and then Swinburne's 'Garden of Proserpine' (track four) to music which develops every former theme. In despair, he then recites 'O Melancholy Brothers' and dies. The Rite ends at noon in total depression.

Ken has also set The Rite of Jupiter for the Illuminates of Thanateros coven. Ken otherwise disclaims any other involvement with the organisation!

'The Rite of Jupiter' Opus 4

Charles Brewster, then a member of the 'Illuminates of Thanateros', commissioned music to accompany the Aleister Crowley 'Rites of Eleusis', published by the Mandrake Press. This piece was written to accompany the 'Rite of Jupiter', which dictates the form. Unfortunately, copyright battles prevent the publication of the text here, as factions of the Crowley inheritance struggle for control. Separated by bell ritornelli, the 'Jupiter theme' emerges from nothing during the thirteen verses. This is used as the basis of varied developments, one of which changes it into an important subsidiary, tonal theme. While the music uses conventions from minimalism and rock, it is more about excursive development and counterpoint. The mood is of cautious optimism, which gathers confidence through the piece. The objective of the Rite is the Banquet of Jupiter, which is why there are so many dinner bells.

Dream Time' Opus 5

...was written in memory of Ken's cousin Eileen, who died of cancer at the age of 54. She was a great story-teller and this piece is a sort of Scheherazade for the 20th Century and one of a pair of highly dissimilar works based on the whole-tone scale. All the textbooks say that the whole-tone scale is only capable of vague results and Ken did not believe this. The work is based on sketches for 'Venus', a third Rite of Eleusis. (Ken had already written music for 'Saturn' and 'Jupiter') but was used for the Eileen memorial when he heard of her death. The quiet arpeggio, first sung by the choir, forms the basic material. This is later transformed into a vigorous violin theme and the work is built from these. At the end, a coda protests against the 'dying of the light', which ultimately prevails as the work dies away.

Euro-Music Opus 6

To celebrate Britain assuming the presidency of Europe in 1992, a few miserable pounds were dedicated to the Arts. The English painter Sheila Hayward gathered a group of eight compatible artists from different European Community countries into the Euro8Group to show (and to prevent all the money falling into the arts administrators' pockets, where it normally ends up). The artists were Aruni Constandinidi (Greece), Francis Gury (France), Cliff Hanley (Scotland), Eugene Power (Ireland), Avis Saltsman (Wales), Erminio Schieppati (Italy) and Louise Schorn (Germany). This piece had been commissioned at Aruni's suggestion, to accompany the exhibition. It is a loose set of variations on the notes C, E G# and A#, which is whole-tone material.

It attempts to demonstrate aspects of the artists and their art, insofar as the composer understands them

Double Talk - ballet Opus 7

This ballet was written for the Antonia Blackler company. There are five continuous parts. Four dancers are needed.

Part 1 (track 1). Out of darkness, the dancers parade and (Part 2) dance in a stiff, disciplined manner as if constrained by outside forces.

Part 3 (track 2). One dancer breaks away and each in turn perform their own dance, which represents the character of each of the original dancers in turn. The dances each last about three minutesand are separated by interludes of about 90 seconds where the dancers hand over the stage. This section ends in sudden darkness (and much noise).

Part 4 (track 3). A period of confusion results as the dancers attempt to co-operate unsuccessfully until in Part 5 (track 4) they manage to come together in an organised dance of their own devising

The music is written around (but not in the key of) G#, which gathers other notes around it in the introduction to Part One. G# remains central throughout. This is the full version of the ballet score without the cuts made for performance.

Study for Organ Opus 8

This was written for Gillian Weir from material for an allegorical opera on a biblical subject. The opera was abandoned as the flood of new discoveries from the Dead Sea Scrolls made it ridiculous.

Symphony in memory of my Father Opus 9

My Father died unexpectedly on May 28th 1993 when visiting my brother Geof and his family on Skiathos (Greece). My Mother followed him five weeks later but I had started this work a few days after my Father's death in response, hence the dedication. The symphony is in two large movements, each consisting of alternating slow and fast sections and built as single movement symphonies on the same material. The work is apparently based on two pairs of three descending chromatic notes separated by a tritone. These are the first six notes played by the trumpet and are replied to by an inversion. However, there is an underlying theme by someone else which is only revealed at the end of the allegro before the coda of the second movement.

The first movement is 'about' Ken's reaction to his Father's unexpected death, mixing grief music with 'mountain music'. (His Father worked as a walking guide for the Holiday Fellowship).The second movement is more illustrative of his Father and mostly lighter, especially after he left London and had more opportunity to be himself.

All the sections of both movements derive from the initial material. Some of these derivatives establish themselves. There is a 'programme' to this essentially dramatic music but this would cause distress to people still alive and will not be revealed here. Later generations will be able to consult 'The Diary of Ken Baldry', entry of December 4th 1996, for elucidation.

Endings and Beginnings Opus 10

We were both surprisingly and dreadfully upset when John Smith, the Leader of the Labour Party died in 1994. We felt, among other things, that someone had stolen our future. We took some flowers to Walworth Road. The next day, Ken's reaction was to write a brief threnody, mostly composed walking back from the City. This does become a little more upbeat towards the end of its two minute span but, to be more positive, Ken added two pieces, one for each of the children born to friends in the previous week.

The second piece, to Letticia Irvine (born May 5th) is a picture of the learning process, as new sensations crowd in. The third, a little march for Alexander Conan Turner (born May 2nd) is more external and illustrates the opportunities and pitfalls of starting life and ends with a sense of continuity, as if it could carry on for a long time, as indeed, it could.he three pieces share the same material, although this is not obvious.

Japanese Garden Opus 11

Tsugiko Carver plays jazz while she works in Himiko, her antiques shop in Islington's Camden Passage. Ken thought she should play Japanese music but she does not like it, so he wrote her a piece of his own music but scored for Japanese instruments and a small choir.

Freedom, fraternity & the right to Rock 'n Roll in Public Opus 12

This was written as a protest against the Criminal Justice Bill of 1994, in which Ken took a leading rôle for Charter 88. It was first performed at the 1995 Edinburgh Festival by Catherine Nardiello, to whom it is dedicated.

'Wanderer' a study in fourths Opus 13

This work started as a study for an opera, taking the example of the Ring, where the whole work grows from the initial triad. Because of the unorthodox form, a description of events follows:-

The opening fanfare establishes the fourths-based atmosphere and the succeeding slow section throws up the basic material, notably in a quiet trombone fanfare. Throughout the piece, the wind chimes and chorus comment. The percussion opens the way to a theme, which is extensively developed until interrupted by a related quick march episode. This leads to the first dance tune which becomes the vasis of a passacaglia, which almost passes out from lack of energy but picks up to further development and another quick march episode, leading to a version of the opening fanfare which develops framgents of the theme until a second dance tune arises, which is developed further. This runs out of steam and the mood darkens until a string outburst clears the air until the opening fanfare returns, much extended and leading to a realistic funeral march, where only the tramp of feet and bird-song are heard. This becomes demented, when it is stopped by bells and a grim contemplation (based on the 2nd march episode) ensues. This speeds up and a fast string parody ushers in a long set of variations, ending in a second, waltz passacaglia. A varied opening fanfare starts a coda where the relationships of the various themes thrown up during the stuudy are made clear. The Wanderer finally arrived home quietly, having seen and learned much in their travels.

The journey it tells of it that of a sensitive soul in the era of Thatcherism. It was written for a synthesiser and is extravagant with resources. However, it could be played by real instruments, if a synthesiser keyboard was available for the unnatural instruments used in the second part.

Music for an Italian Art Show Opus 14

The show was of artwork inspired by Italy by the painter and printmaker Avis Saltsman and took place in the Islington Museum in September 1997. The music is based on the four notes C B F E played by the bass clarinet at the beginning of the piece but is meant to be played repeatedly and continuously. A visitor to the show could come in at any point! The basic motive becomes part of a note row which forms the material for most of the piece, very strictly handled although there are a few episodes on similar material, including a little sonata-form movement in E major representing the mercenary soldiers in part 3. The music is highly episodic and begins in the mists on the Venice Lagoon, then proceeds through a plainsong to a busy market place and into the rice fields and villages. A brief memory of Roman times leads (part two) into a series of dream sequences and dances finishing with a reminder of the tensions in the South between the peasantry's life in the hot sun & the Mafia undercurrent. Part three opens with voices of hope and a prayer for peace leading into the sonata allegro. Then, the Abruzzi piper from the part two dances appears again. There is an adagio and an 'aria' leading to part four, a dance with the African influence apparent in the South. Part five recapitulates material from part one. Part six starts with a plainsong which develops into a tarantella. Part seven recapitulates material from part two and part eight attempts to wrap things up and cycle back to the beginning.

Fantasy - A Shropshire Lad Opus 15

This is a fantasy based on the cycle of poems by A E Houseman. He has received much attention from the 'cow & gate' school of English composers & Ken thought that something with a little more bite was required. Although the Lad probably fell in the Boer War, it is the First World War which is depicted here. This was written for Michèle Needleman Molloy to celebrate 20 years service as Ken's Best Friend in 1997. About 15 minutes.

'Sea & Mountains' Opus 16

This tone poem was written very quicky, in 31 days in November & December 1997. It is closely based on a note row of B, C, F, F#, A#, E, D#, A, D, G#, C#, G which is rarely transposed & then only by a fourth, augmented fourth or second. It is an attempt by Ken to be less generous with material. There are seven parts, played continuously:-

1. Sea - grey. Winter off the Suffolk coast.
2. Mountains - gold. After starting in the dark from a hut, the climbers observe the golden light on the mountains opposite their goal.
3. Sea - silver. A scherzo-and-trio. The sunlight off a sea gently disturbed by the wind until a storm breaks in the trio. The scherzo is repeated.
4. Mountains - silver. Full sunlight on the peaks. Drifting clouds cast occasional shadows. An ice avalanche falls from a glacier.
5. Sea - gold. The evening sea, not necessarily portending good weather in the morning.
6. Mountains - white. A white-out, firstly observed in the conifers & then on the open fell-side. The climber is alone with their thoughts but returns content.
7. Sea & Mountains. The distinct material is combined but the sea will always wear away the mountains.

During the composition, it became as apparent to Ken as it will to the listener, that he was much more comfortable with his mountains than with the sea. It lasts 61 minutes.

'Carnival Music' Opus 18

This was written for an art show where it was not in fact, used. The division into parts is largely arbitrary, as it is a continuous non-repeating string of carnival elements based on a 12 note row. Carnival is the time when the dead return to haunt the streets, so the jollity should seem a little forced, as it is here.

'Spanish Music' Opus 20

These pieces were written for a show of collagraphs and screenprints by Avis Saltsman on an Andalucian theme, although the music does not confine itself to Andalucia. There are seven movements and an interlude, based on the note row C, E, A#, B, D#, G, G#, D, F#, A, C#, F also used in the French Overture Opus 19 & the Symphony Opus 21. Being full of thirds, it gives a spuriously tonal feel to the music.

1 Andalucian dawn
2 Chant, the baleful influence of the Catholic Church
3 Pilgrim’s March Santiago de Compostela, a rough road
4 Chorale
5 Flamenco
6 Interlude
7 Midday the heat, the heat
8 La Folia based on the dance rhythm, not the tune

'Symphony' Opus 21 (1999)

After a quiet drum-roll, the first note heard is ‘C’, which begins the note-row, C E A# B D# G G# D F# A C# F, on which this apparently tonal work is based. The plethora of thirds in the row creates this superficial impression but the unwillingness of the music to settle to harmonic expectations undermines this.

After leaving the opening firm ‘C’, the work tries to get back to it but, no matter that moments of repose occur frequently, somehow they always miss & settle for triads on nearby but distantly related notes such as B or C#, even D. The first movement tries to persuade itself back to C, twice losing its temper. The Scherzo, in that scherzoish manner, tries to bludgeon its way back, only to sink in the mire. The Adagio believes itself to be on a Winter’s Journey. Only the rondo finale, opening with a confident ‘G’ which is clearly not the dominant of C, happily argues its way to a collapse into C after exhausting itself in fruitful debate.

'9 Studies' Opus 22

These studies are just that & based on a note row of C, F, B, A#, E, G#, G, D, A, F#, C#, D, which was later used in the symphonic poem, ‘Woods & Streams’ Opus 23.

‘Woods and Streams’ Opus 23

This tone poem was written in the Spring of 2000. It is entirely based on a note row of C, F, B, A#, E, G#, G, D, A, F#, C#, D, its derivatives and tetrachords. Unlike ‘Sea & Mountains’ Opus 16, which is a big rondo & about the same length, the human element intrudes, usually malignly, as the piece is much concerned with pollution and the parts have no obvious thematic relationship. There are seven distinct parts, played continuously but all closely based on the same material, so the titles are really superfluous except as an aid in Ken’s campaign to help people accept 12-tone music. It was inspired by Simon Schama's book, 'Landscape and Memory'

1. Pines on Rannoch Moor. They resist a storm which breaks out.
2. A short Spring to the Sea. The Glencoe beck from its spring to Loch Leven.
3. AD 9 - the Hermannschlacht. 15,000 Roman soldiers cross the Rhine. Less than 100 come back.
The Germans are relieved rather than triumphant.
4. Rivers with rapids.
5. Lithuania. The dense and trackless Lithuanian forest with clearings full of flowers.
6. Barcarolle: rowing through ‘developed’ country.
7. Man, Felling and Pollution. Man uses the wood and water for recreation and industry.

‘Faust’ Opus 24

This study was written in the Autumn of 2000. It is based on a note row of:- B, F#, C, E, G, G#, D, D#, F, A#, C#, A, its derivatives and tetrachords. The Faust legend may have originated from the figure of Simon Magus, the disciple of Jesus, another participant in the aborted crucifixion (and if Prof. Barbara Thiering is to be belived, the figure in the middle of the crucifixion tryptich) which launched the Christian religion on its bloody and unattractive course. Everyone else has had their take on this story & it was associated with the figure of Heinrich Faust in the 16th Century by Johannes Trithemius’ alleged biography of this Faust. Being a rationalist, my Faust legend is this:-

Philosophy, chemistry & the occult were intertwined in the Middle Ages and it was still possible to take an overview of knowledge, especially because of the Churches attempts to suppress it at all costs. Like Busoni’s Faust opera, my Faust starts on Easter Sunday but the figure of Faust knows, through his reading of the Gospels, that this is far removed from reason. He thinks things out for himself, while also carrying on his occupation as an Alchemist but being of his time, also consults arcana. After putting together some theses, lightly understood by his friends, the general public hear of his work, misunderstand it completely and subject it to mockery, tinged with fear. (The tracks on this disc are arbitrary, being decided by recording convenience, as the musical argument is continuous but this is Track Four). Faust is angered but is distracted by the possibility of fleshly delights. However, his work ethic causes him to push these away & makes him concentrate on refining and extending his argument. This is a mistake, as he has no partner to bounce ideas off & to distract him from over-work when more subtle public approbrium suggests that he has signed a pact with the Devil in order to pursue his studies and experiments. Consequently, with his logic polluted by the possibility of supernatural considerations, he comes to think that maybe he has signed a pact with the Devil, even if he has no conscious memory of having done so. Eventually, his work comes to the notice of the Church, which is always on the lookout for ideas to crush and it tells him, unsubtly with a few organ chords, to stop it at once. Trying to find ways of continuing his studies while evading the Church drives him mad with the impossibility of reconciling reason with tosh. He dies with his mind in ruins. His remaining sympathisers arrange a low-key funeral but, in the brief coda, his legend lives on and develops, even if the calumny about the pact with the Devil assumes most importance & the Devil in fact, has the last tune.
The Faust theme, F B C# (sometimes D#) G# is pervasive but the Devil theme is not easy to spot on first hearing.

‘Victory for Truth’ Opus 24a

This suite was written inresponse to my friend Michey’s complaint that I write too much 12-tone music & not enough tonal stuff. It is supposed to demonstrate the impossibility of writing serious musical statements in the style of tonal music she has in mind - the wonderful but now obsolete world of Sibelius, Tubin & Vaughan-Williams.
The five sections are distinguished by tempo, rather than content, whichis a struggle for dominance between the two styles.
The first section begins with the most inoffensive & genial, indeed wimpish little waltz section imaginable. This picks up the Faust & Mephistopheles themes from ‘Faust’ Opus 24 (hence the ‘a’ opus number) transfigured into charming waltz tempo. This is all rudely interrupted by a 12-tone section which fails to bully its way in. And so, all proceeds through a slow movement, a sort of passacalia, a scherzo in the form of a clarinet concerto, another slow movement, where tonality calls in allies from pentatonic lands to a finale which ends with another genial & rather pretty section, which is pure, no-cheating 12-note music of the most rigorous kind. QED.

The title came from an African painting shown in Tate Modern in 2001 & the use of the photograph of Willy Lott’s Cottage on the cover parallels the course of the music. Which style is real & which just a reflection?

‘Bang’ Opus 25

The Republican Party in the USA in the last 78 years has sicked three crooked presidents onto its country: Warren Harding, up to his ears in corruption & only avoided impeachment by dying; Richard Nixon, socially liberal perhaps but so paranoid about his re-election that he organised a criminal conspiracy to keep it & was duly driven from office. Latest & probably worst, we have George Dubbya Bush, who lost his first election but was shoe-horned into office by a corrupt Supreme Court & rigged his second election by fixing the new computerised voting machines. Only in states using those were the results out of conformity with the exit polls.

Even before his criminal invasion of Iraq, Ken had decided that this man was weak or evil or stupid, perm any two out of three & entirely in the pockets of the Oil industry, one in which he had had several business opportunities in his earlier life & all of which he failed at. The idea that he had at his disposal the most powerful military force in the World was deeply depressing. Ken decided as an act of personal therapy to describe in music this villian. The title comes from Bush's 'natural' propensity to resort to force as his first option.

The music is organised as a normal symphony in four movements but, in view of its subject, is not dignified with the name of that musical form. It took longer than usual to write (2002 - 2004), because the extent of Bush's crimes increased during the composition & the last movement is more about the consequences of Bush, rather than he himself.

‘For Avis’ Opus 26

A tribute by Ken to his wife and an exercise in simply writing a beautiful piece of music.

‘Autumn’ Opus 27

Within one year, Ken lost two of his most intellectual friends. Robin Freeman died on 2-11-2004. He was a free-lance scholar, spoke five languages & had a formidable knowledge of modern music, which is where Ken came in, as he was one of the people Robin could ring for a three hour telephone call (sometimes from Rome) who would understand what he was talking ablout. Derek Hill died on 19-9-2005, one of Ken's atheist friends who, rather like Robin, had very wide-ranging interests. This tone poem was written in their memory.

‘Two String Quartets’ Opus 28, 1 & 2

These quartets were written as gifts for friends who Ken describes as "Chateau Socialists" & to whom the Baldrys are grateful for holidays given this century, particularly as both areas have family history interest for Ken.

Quartet No.1 This is dedicated to Maryse & Martin Jones, who's chateau is somewhat West of Biarritz. It is in five separate movements, with two rather operatic slow movements framing a central Scherzo & related allegro movements to start & end with. About 36 minutes.

Quartet No. 2 This is dedicated to Vicky Wisher, who has a 12th century house in a well-preserved medieval village rather West of Toulouse. The quartet is in five continuous movements with short fast ritornelli between them. The movements are progressively faster, from a gloomy largo, to a funereal march, to a rather ambulatory allegretto, to a brisk March of the Puppets & finally, an airy presto, with the whole tone elements teased out of the tone row & which concludes with the opening music cheered up. About 40 minutes.

'It's the Weather' Opus 29

A six minute piano piece written for a concert in Vienna on June 16th 2009 organised by the Institut für Klangreihenmusik, see Opus 31 below. Very British, it is dull at first, then it rains & then, the Sun comes out.

'Night Vision' Opus 30

A suite of seven movements:

1. Incoherent Narrative: one of those dreams that do not make sense
2. Wild Hunt
3. Halloween: spooky stuff, first played at a Halloween Party for the Stuart Low Trust
4. Elysian Fields
6. The Observant Dead: one of those dreams where one thinks dead people are watching & criticising one
7. Northern Lights: added after seeing them from the deck of the "Marco Polo" in March 2011

String Trio Opus 31

A thank-you for Dr. Dominik Sedivy, who arranged the performance of 'It's the Weather' in Vienna. A quarter-hour long, it was conceived as a rather more genial companion piece to Schönberg's String Trio.

"Oh! Maude" Opus 32

My wife's grand-daughter, Maude, died at the age of two and a half on New Year's Day, 2011. This ten minute piece was written immediately under the impact of this event, for 14 players.

'Baby Foxes', a duo for Violin & Cello Opus 33

A 5 minute piece written for Kzenia Berezina, a brilliant violin student at the Royal College. The two instruments tumble over each other like baby foxes playing.

String Quartet No. 3 Opus 34

Rather a long piece at about 55 minutes, it explores the row used in 'Baby Foxes' in a lot more detail & seems to be really getting into the sound world first proposed in Opus 1.

Symphony 2013 Opus 35

A "State of the Nation" work, with a rather grim movement, structurally based on Bruckner's 9th, a slow movement spooky, then interrupted by a quite jolly scherzo, negated by a cortège then a finale in a rather unjustified lighter mood. About 40 minutes.

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