Music of Possibility is an illuminating personal account of what, for composer Richard Barrett, are the most consequential areas of twentieth- and twenty first-century musical innovation, and how, together with a web of technologies, cultures and politics, they have informed his creative practice. One of today’s most incisive musical thinkers, Barrett reveals the practical artistic results and implications of this synthesis through composition, performance and creative partnerships.
Covering areas such as systematic approaches to composition, electronic musical performance and intersections between notational and improvisational methods of composition, the book includes a set of five dialogues between Barrett and some of his closest musical collaborators. Reflecting on both the drivers and creative results of his work to date he goes on to speculate on future possible evolutions.
In this book, Barrett not only contextualises his compositional and improvisational practices, he presents lucid commentaries on his recent work and concludes with five critical dialogues that consider early and recent creative practice, artistic interactions and collaborations, particularly how we might get away from the received norms of how these might function. The author’s passion and enthusiasm for ‘thinking about creative thinking’ will appeal to the “innovator-in-their- bedroom”, the improviser, the composer but also anyone interested in artistic innovation: as such, it is a “book of possibility”.
Richard Barrett brings the same incisive attention to detail and relevance to his writings on music as he does when making music. This is a brilliant account of the transition from the twentieth into the twenty-first century from a practitioner at the leading edge of music’s development.
A strikingly individual artist who questions the notion and the value of individuality – by working closely with performers, sometimes in contexts where improvisation has an important role – Richard Barrett lives that paradox to produce music of consistent exploration and urgency. Hence, too, no doubt, the lack of self-regard in this quietly explosive invitation to think differently – about music and about ourselves.
This is not just an invitingly readable guide to Richard Barrett’s fascinating music, it also outlines a genuinely inspiring artistic philosophy involving some of the most compelling ideas about contemporary music and how to make it. For me, Barrett’s contribution is essential to any understanding of the larger picture of creative music today.