CONCRETE


My snap (above) was taken from London Wall while sheltering from the rain, and perfectly demonstrates my thoughts about being a resident of London. There's a chunk of actual Roman Wall in the foreground, which no-one is paying attention to, surrounded by architectural remnants of all the other periods that followed it, and this is the space in which we make ourselves at home.


When I was the featured composer in one of the BBCSO's late, great Barbican composer weekends in 2008 (at that time, these events lasted for three days) I decided to write a piece about how London has been constantly settled, knocked down, set on fire and resettled, since records began. Inspired by the Barbican estate itself, and its optimistic beginnings as an all-rented housing estate for City residents, I titled it CONCRETE.


Its fragmentary text (as if broken up and whirled in a mixer) comes from earliest times, starting with the Greek fire-worshipping cult of Mithras, followed by Roman soldiers stationed in London. The Great Fire of London features strongly (in John Evelyn's account) the Blitz is represented by Shakespeare's Sonnet 55, and a 1959 prospectus for the new Barbican estate.


CONCRETE received a new performance and live broadcast in its Barbican home this week, audible at present on BBC Sounds. As ever I marvelled at the calm, supportive work of the BBC Symphony Chorus (chorus master Neil Ferris) who performed this quite complicated piece, alongside a very able and musical actor Jamie Parker, the BBC Symphony and gracious conductor Sakari Oramo.

autumn.jpg

JUDITH WEIR

Composer