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TOM OWEN
Memory Chasm
Interlude: The Beach Planetarium
Anatomical Study with Gearbox
Coda: The Optimum Wound Profile
The ‘Exhibition’ in the title refers to the visual capabilities of the imagination which are triggered even by non-programmatic music, and more specifically to J.G. Ballard’s The atrocity Exhibition, in which the mind’s eye conjures vast and alien settings, and uses strange and confused modes of description. The material is also of an exhibitionistic nature, with everything overtly on display.
There are two ‘landscape’ movements, inspired by chapters in which Ballard’s protagonist walks around worlds generated by his subconscious brain, and two ‘anatomical’ movements, which describe persons. In the landscapes, the sense of scale is dramatically altered, with the terrain broad and barren in a way that only an imaginary landscape can allow - I think of the distance to the cliffs in the background of Dali’s Persistence of memory. The objects that confront the walker within the landscapes are disproportionately huge, with certain disproportionately zoomed-in. Elsewhere the portraits think of Ballard’s oddly geometric descriptions of the human form. Famously in Crash, there are pornographic scenes created from medical emergencies, filled with surgical detail. Elsewhere, though, I am more interested in what is arguably the converse of the same device: a heroine’s figure carefully described in terms that a surgeon or mathematician would use in a scientific document. There is nothing sentimental about this technique, but it successfully suggests a kind of obsession in which the mind of the observer, troubled or working in overdrive, has activated an inappropriate faculty in an attempt to describe.
“Anatomical Study with Gearbox” is something of a game piece, with the performer choosing the order in which the material appears, and also the order of a set of tempo (‘gear’) changes - meaning that any part of the piece could potentially appear at a huge varieties of speeds. The movement in its entirety, then, could turn out turbulent and virtuosic, or sustained and meditative - or a skittish mixture of the two. In other words - it is an attempt to combine virtuosity and spontaneity.
List of works
Bust
Hut Ritual
Exhibition Suite
Triple Concerto
Fastener (Bra 3) (Plunge)
Prowl Routine
Sweet Suffolk Owl
Package 1a
Womb
What a Clarinet Sounds Like
Embankment Beach
Anatomical Study with Gearbox
© 2015 Tom James, Tom Owen, Jenny Jackson & Chris Noble.
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Exhibition Suite
Players and performances
Huddersfield, St. Paul’s Hall, 17th October 2013.
Sheffield, Upper Chapel, 19th October 2013.

Philip Thomas
Piano
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