The winter desert of my silences is not some new-agey title cooked up out of thin air, but a (translated) line out of a poem by Milanese poet Fabio Franzin, from his stunning collection 'The Color of Words'. Then, when I found myself looking for the right moment to bring in my eleven electronic tubas that form the electroacoustic part of the piece, I was in a physical desert: the Anti-Atlas mountains; the village of Tiouadou, Morocco; a small Bedouin house in which to spend the night. The whole experience of writing this piece has been one of unfamiliarity – with the tuba, with electronics (which I had not used in a composition for eight years), with the environment outside me. That kind of stuff is eventually subsumed, becomes "us", and this very strange piece that emerged is ultimately, now, familiar and personal.
Next Wave has been like this too. I have participated in many workshops, experienced that unsettledness that occurs when a performer sees a score for the first time and struggles to find an immediate connection, something to grab onto. Some workshops resulted in performances, recordings, others were simply workshops; to have been part of this one meant being exposed to surprising, previously unimaginable things. Like what Oren Marshall can do with the tuba, or what my fellow composers bring in for the same instrument, or same group, so vastly different in scope and style – and yet we sometimes live just a few miles from each other.
One doesn't have to go to a real desert for inspiration, because the extraordinary is surely found among us, too, like at hcmf, where none of the programs could possibly be classified as ordinary. Or in the very special inclusion in a release during NMC's 25th anniversary season. Titles mean many things, too many to even mention, but they also carry the narrative of the process of composition, the genealogy of the musical material that was born out of Next Wave. It has been surreal. It has also been edifying and inspiring.
Listen to an extract from Eugene's The winter desert of my silences
Interview with Eugene
Eugene's Top 10 Tracks
Explore Eugene's Music Map
The winter desert of my silences is available on the Next Wave album featuring all 12 new works from the Next Wave composers.
1. Weiwei Jin: Sterna Paradisaea, Returning
2. Maya Verlaak: All Verlaak's Music is Alouette
3. Eugene Birman: The winter desert of my silences
4. Edwin Hillier: hibeh
5. Ji Sun Yang: KAIROI
6. Georgia Rodgers: partial filter
7. Ben Gaunt: Filling Rubin's Vase
8. Michael Cutting: I AM A STRANGE LOOP III
9. Oliver Christophe Leith: hand coloured
10. Barnaby Hollington: Velvet Revolution
11. Paul McGuire: Panels
12. Ryan Latimer: Moby Dick
Artists: Loré Lixenberg, Sarah Nicolls, Oren Marshall, Sound Intermedia, London Sinfonietta, Garry Walker
Download the album here.