Julie Barwick’s imagined soldier’s future

world war 1 battle

On our upcoming concert, we’re featuring the first of two brand-new commissions from this season’s composer-in-residence, Julie Barwick. We asked Julie to share a little bit about her new piece, which is a continuation of the story from Stravinsky’s The Solider’s Tale, bringing together elements from the original with Julie’s unique musical style. Check out the interview below!

What is your piece called and what is it about?

The piece is called Thirty-three Years and is an imagining of the life of the “soldier” 33 years after Stravinsky’s story ends. The number 33 references the story told in The Soldier’s Tale: the first time the soldier is tricked by the devil, he realizes he has lost three years of his life. He says: “It wasn’t three days. Three years have passed!” I suppose I have also tricked the soldier because in my piece, it is now 33 years that have passed.

Musically speaking, does this piece connect to The Soldier’s Tale? If so, how?

Yes, it does. My piece is written for the same instrumentation: clarinet, bassoon, trumpet, trombone, percussion, violin, and double bass. I even used the same percussion instruments, although I couldn’t quite find a place for the triangle!

triangle performance meme

Additionally, I borrowed several musical motives or ideas from the score. Probably the most obvious are the bass/violin parts and the trumpet/trombone melody lines from the opening march. In my version, I have both syncopated and transformed them quite a bit from the originally strict march rhythm. Another instance of borrowing came from the ending of Soldier’s Tale: the original is a forceful percussion solo, while in mine has become a very quiet percussion opening. Also like Stravinsky, I have given the violinist and clarinetist big roles. There are other musical motives as well, but these are purposely more hidden.

Is there a theme or idea underlying your piece?

The music of my piece definitely has its own internal story, but I wanted to avoid making any obvious moral statements. This piece is rather about what I imagine the soldier’s memories to be as a now older man and thus why I have chosen to use musical elements from Stravinsky’s score in both obvious and hidden ways.

What is something that the audience should listen for in the piece?

I think it would be helpful to listen to the thread of the percussion part throughout and how/when it switches between soloist and accompanist. There is also a substantial dialogue between the clarinetist and violinist in the last third of the piece. While it would be helpful to know Stravinsky’s original work, I hope my piece can still be enjoyed without it. [Editor’s note: not to worry, you’ll get to hear both on the concert!]

As a composer, how do you feel about Stravinsky’s music in general?

I’m definitely a big fan of Stravinsky’s music. While of course I love his larger works, I also really enjoy many smaller pieces written in the same general time period as The Soldier’s Tale, such as his Octet for Wind Instruments. The unexpected combination of Bach and jazz still sounds so modern!

Get your tickets today to hear Julie’s exciting new piece alongside the piece that inspired it. You’ll also get to hear a second work inspired by The Soldier’s Tale, by Chris Cerrone.