Earle Brown's rarely performed Calder Piece had its UK premiere at Tate Modern as part of the Alexander Calder: Performing Sculpture exhibition
American composer Earle Brown, the creator of open form musical construction, collaborated with artist Alexander Calder on Calder Piece, in which four percussionists are conducted by Calder's sculpture, Chef D'Orchestre. Brown originally called his open form works mobile compositions, inspired by the moving sections of Calder's sculptures. The two met in 1953 and became friends.
The performance begins with the musicians placed equidistant from the mobile, and they are asked to imagine an image of the mobile superimposed over the score, and then perform the areas of the score that correspond to that reading of the mobile's position. The piece involves over 100 percussion instruments that the musicians dart around to play as they read the sculpture and respond to its changing position -- including the petals of the mobile itself.
The sculpture was completed in 1966, and Brown completed the score shortly thereafter, as a commission from the Paris Percussion Quartet. Calder Piece was first performed at the Théâtre de l'Atelier in Paris in 1967, and has been performed rarely over the following decades, in France and the US. This performance, on 10 November 2015 at Tate Modern, was the first time it has been performed in the UK.
The performance was part of the exhibition Alexander Calder: Performing Sculpture at Tate Modern, which runs until 3 April 2016.