Against Oblivion Part 3 is the third in an ongoing series of music/theatre/performance works

Each part of Against Oblivion uses a combination of text, music and action to explore the importance of memory, especially the legacy that we leave behind us when we die, and how we are affected by the legacy of others.

Part 3 is about the legacy of music itself, in particular Western music of the 20th century. It is now over 100 years since the flowering of modernist music and its radical break with the music of the past, but the legacy of modernism and the ideas about music and sound introduced in the 20th Century have changed irreversibly the way we approach both creating and listening to music.

In his seminal 1968 work Sinfonia, Luciano Berio made a tribute to the music of Gustav Mahler whose work as Berio put it ‘seems to bear the weight of the entire history of music of the last two centuries’. In the 3rd movement, the Scherzo from Mahler’s 2nd Symphony runs through the work ‘like a river flowing through a constantly changing landscape’. There are close parallels with my approach in Against Oblivion Part 3. For Berio the Mahler movement is treated ‘like a generator - and also as a container - within whose framework a large number of musical characters and references is proliferated’. Against Oblivion 3 looks back at the ideas and music of the 20th Century and the legacy they have left for composers, musicians and audiences today. Using a mixture of sampling, improvisation, quotation, reworking and rescoring the piece fuses pre-composed music with live improvisation, incorporating both pre-existing musical material as well as ideas and quotations about what music is and what it can be. These draw on material from a variety of sources, in particular Anton Webern and John Cage (who between them represent to me two composers who ‘bear the weight’ of 20th Century western music), but also Hanns Eisler, Igor Stravinsky, Bela Bartok, and Morton Feldman. Into this mix is also thrown music based on material by Henry Purcell, a 15th Century French dance and a recent work ‘Jove’ by UK composer Michael Brooks.

Improvisation is used in various ways, some free, some structured and some based on existing musical fragments. As a reflection of the collaboration between a London-based composer and a Palermo-based orchestra, the piece opens with an improvisation around a recording of the lifting machinery of London’s iconic Tower Bridge.

Jeremy Peyton Jones

Against Oblivion, Part 3

Created in collaboration with the Sicilian Improvisers Orchestra, during a residency in Palermo, Italy hosted by the Cantieri Culturali alla Zisa in March-April 2014 in a co-production with Curva Minore


Preview performance

Cantieri Culturali alla Zisa 3 April 2014

World premiere

Teatro Garibaldi, Palermo 4 April 2014


Sicilian Improvisers Orchestra

Tiziana Maionica - voice
Eva Geraci - flute
Benedetto Basile - flute
Marcello Cinà - saxophone
Beppe Viola – clarinet / reeds
Mezz Gacano – el. guitar
Giuseppe Greco - guitar
Gandolfo Pagano – prepared guitar
Alessandro Librio - violin
Lelio Giannetto  - contrabass
Alessandra Pipitone – piano/keyboards