Volume 17, June 2023
Learning Strategies for Complex Rhythms: Approaching Richard Barrett's splinter for contrabass solo (2018-2022)

by Kathryn Schulmeister

10. Conclusion

In conclusion, I found through my practice-based research and analysis that my methods of rhythmic translation and building of a click track worked successfully as a learning strategy for tackling the immense rhythmic demands of Barrett's splinter. Although I can understand a point of view that may critique my approach for being perhaps overly literal or mechanical in rhythmic interpretation, I personally do not see it that way. In my interpretation of splinter, I don't imagine that Barrett intends for the same gestures of romanticism that could be interpreted in other new complexity scores (such as those of Brian Ferneyhough), but rather that Barrett is inviting the performer to transcend to worlds of music previously unknown. Further, I imagine that I will develop an aural and physical muscle memory from extensive practice with the click tracks that will eventually lead me to experiment with performing an interpretation from memory in which I take more expressive liberties with the rhythmic material.

In writing on his compositional idea of radically idiomatic instrumentalism, Barrett writes:

The piece could then perhaps be viewed as a window into an entire repertoire that does not and will never exist, like a lost world of which a single artefact remains, an object which should be shaped so as somehow to invoke that whole world (in a related way to that in which serial music might attempt to invoke an entire configuration-space without having to map every point in it, as outlined above).31

From the musical score of splinter, and Barrett's statements on his own work, I believe that his score is an opportunity for a performer to push themselves intellectually, technically, and physically, to explore unknown musical territory.