James Wood (1953)
At this moment James Wood is one of the leading figures in the area of
microtonal music. He studied composition with Nadia Boulanger in Parijs and
organ at the university and Royal Music Academy in Cambridge. In 1983 he founded
the New London Chamber Choir, which he conducts since that time. In
1986 Pierre Boulez became patron of the choir. It has a very broad repertoire, from Josquin to
contemporary compositions, performs in Europa and America and cooperates with leading composers as Iannis Xenakis,
György Ligeti, Mauricio Kagel, Kurtág and Steve Reich.
The term Cart-wheel is used by James Wood in two different ways, in the
literal sense and as image of a powerful somersault done sideways.
The title refers thus literally to the optical illusion of a slow and contrary
movement that arises when the spokes of a wheel attain a certain speed.
At the same time an image is evoked in a figurative sense of tumblings under
different strengths of gravity, until the point of weightlessness.
In the instrumentation James Wood has tried to employ certain similarities between
the timbre of the bass clarinet and the percussion instruments, such as the
sound of round clay pots and partials of clarinet multiphonics, woodblocks and
the sound of clarinet keys, guiro and breathing. Wood wanted to bring variety
in the way the sounds of the two instrument merge, where sometimes contrary timbres arise.
Furthermore the marimba and the quarter tone cowbells are used as a single instrument which, in
combination with the clarinet multiphonics, makes a rich palette of colours and
microtonal harmonies possible.