Exploring Science. Inspiring Music.

Artificial ArmComposer: Gerald Barry
Object: Artificial Arm / Making the Modern World Gallery

Work Title: The One-Armed Pianist

"The arm was made for a woman, the stretched hand allowing her to cover an octave when playing the piano.   Wearing this arm, she performed at the Royal Albert Hall in 1906.

The piece is in two halves.  The first is philosophical acceptance, the second is the octave played by the wooden arm."  


-  Gerald Barry











© Science Museum/Science & Society Picture Library


Gerald Barry

About Gerald Barry

Gerald Barry was born in Ireland in 1952 and studied composition with Stockhausen and Kagel. He first came to public attention in 1979 with his radical ensemble works '__________' and 'Ø'.

Many of his works have been commissioned by the BBC, including Chevaux-de-frise for the Ulster Orchestra at the 1988 Proms, The Conquest of Ireland and Day for the BBC Symphony Orchestra,  The Eternal Recurrence, a setting of Nietzsche for voice and orchestra, and Hard D for the Orkest de Volharding.

Barry's first opera The Intelligence Park (recorded on NMC), commissioned by the ICA, was first performed at the 1990 Almeida Festival, and a second opera, The Triumph of Beauty and Deceit, written for Channel 4 Television, opened the 2002 Aldeburgh Festival, followed by performances in London an

d the Berliner Festwochen conducted by Thomas Adés.  In 2005 The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant (recorded on RTE)  was given at English National Opera and in 2007 at the Basle Opera.  La Plus Forte (The Stronger), a one-act opera on the Strindberg play was commissioned by Radio France for the 2007 Festival Présences.   Sung by Barbara Hannigan, it toured to Amsterdam, London, Dublin, Miami and Toronto.

Barry has enjoyed a long assocation with the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, for whom he wrote Wiener BlutDead March, and Beethoven God Save The Queen for choir and the London Sinfonietta was commissioned by London's South Bank Centre for the fiftieth birthday of the Royal Festival Hall in 2001.

Recent works include First Sorrow (string quartet) for Crash Ensemble, Beethoven (bass voice and ensemble) for BCMG, Le Vieux Sourd for piano commissioned by Betty Freeman, Feldman's Sixpenny Editions  for the London Sinfonietta and St Paul Chamber Orchestra and Schott and Sons, Mainz, for Bass voice and Choir, an account of the relationship between Beethoven and Schott in his last years. 

His fifth opera, The Importance of Being Earnest (NMC D197) was written for the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Barbican, London.  Stagings took place in 2013 and 2014 for the Opera Nationale de Lorraine - Nancy, The ROH Linbury and the New York City Opera.