In today’s entry, Spectrum composer Graham Campbell gives you the story behind his piece for Tower of Babel June 4, “Rural Brewery”:
A few years ago I read a book called “The Power of Babel” by John McWhorter. The author hypothesizes that the first language spoken by our species emerged at least 150,000 years ago in East Africa, and all the languages of today have descended from this single language. The book explores how this evolution might have taken place, and how we ended up with the languages of today.
One of the main arguments of the book is that there are no languages, only dialects. McWhorter uses the analogy of languages being like clouds. When you see a cloud, you know that if you look at it again in an hour it will not look the same. Languages and dialects change gradually over time and across geography. Every dialect has something in common with its neighbour, but as you get further away, the differences are greater.
This concept inspired my piece “Rural Brewery”, which will be performed at Spectrum Music’s concert entitled The Tower of Babel on June 4 at the Alliance Francaise. My piece attempts to create the sensation of slow and constant evolution, without abrupt changes. As the music progresses, the musical language moves from consonance to dissonance, perhaps reflecting a linguistic journey from a city, where the standard dialects of any language are spoken, to a rural area where more unusual accents can be heard. The title of my piece, aside from referencing a pastoral destination, also comes from my amusement at trying to say it ten times in a row as fast as I can.
I’m very excited to have such an incredible group of musicians performing on June 4 (Amos Hoffman, Noam Lemish, Peter Lutek, Justin Gray, and Derek Gray), as well as to hear the music performed by the other Spectrum composers and guest composers. Each one will have a unique way of interpreting the ancient story of the Tower of Babel, a story that is still relevant in today’s modern world.