Live video recording from the première of Bow and Baleno by Joel Baldwin at the National Gallery’s Barocci Concert on Friday 3rd May 2013. Performed by Sam Cave (guitar), Pete Handley (percussion), Alex Mathew (soprano), Jennifer MacCallum (viola) and Lily Thornton (cello):
About Bow and Baleno
This piece was commissioned for a concert at the National Gallery in conjunction with an exhibition of the works of Federico Barocci (c. 1533-1612). However, this piece takes its inspiration from a painter whose supernatural brushstrokes of ‘brilliance and grace’ clearly left their mark on Barocci. Saint Francis of Assisi was considered too vivid for his medieval surroundings and the rainbow palette he ‘painted the town’ with was taken from him for being too audacious. However, when he emerged from a period of darkness, he unleashed an even brighter display of colour and passion on the world around him. Nature was his canvas and no subject was considered too unworthy to be painted in his divine colours.
G. K. Chesterton said of Saint Francis that he ‘was a man who did not want to see the wood for the trees. He wanted to see each tree as a separate and almost a sacred thing, being a child of God and therefore a brother or sister of man.’ In the same way, Barocci focusses on the character of Saint Francis with sacred detail and brotherly admiration. In Barocci’s various depictions of this famous saint, we see a character who is brilliant, extravagant and spontaneous (un baleno – a flash of light), yet also full of grace, compassion and humility (as gentle as an arch), much like the effect of a lot of Barocci’s work.
This piece explores these two sides of the same coin and its musical and visual material (images and ideas generated from the paintings of Saint Francis by Barocci) represents the ‘brilliance’ on one side and the ‘grace’ on the other of both Saint Francis and Barocci. As a result, the musical material is based upon various binary oppositions and finds itself torn between two worlds: the human (natural, slowly-evolving patterns of ‘bowed’ sounds) and the divine (a supernatural soundworld of miraculous ‘baleno’ events).