Something new i’m introducing this year is a 5:4 Advent Calendar. Over the next few weeks, in the run-up to the festive season, i’m going to briefly explore a collection of interesting, and in some cases neglected, musical delights. Many of them are miniatures, but one or two larger works might also appear from time to time.
Pyramid is a short work composed in 1995 by Mexican composer Javier Alvarez, for a variable number of melodic instruments with electronic sounds. It’s essentially comprised of two basic elements, a short descending motif that starts the piece, and a more generalised minimalistic group behaviour. The motif appears via (rather dated) synthetic clanging bells, leading to a short sequence where an irregular swaying kind of momentum slowly gets going. Once that’s achieved, a sense of irregularity remains, lending a slight hobbling quality to the music, while its harmonies slowly (and more smoothly) revolve round, seemingly clunking into new positions. Alvarez throws a spanner into his machine two-thirds of the way through, loud accents temporarily suspending almost everything, and after it eventually gets going again – lighter and clearer than before – the descending idea from the opening starts to reappear more and more, eventually taking over everything.
A cheerful slice of glittery playfulness, this performance of Pyramid was given on 9 June 2011 by the BBC Concert Orchestra conducted by Charles Hazelwood as part of the orchestra’s ‘Electronica III’ concert at the Queen Elizabeth Hall.