The Fish that Became the Sun is more than just a piece of music. In it, groups of musicians coexist and work with and sometimes against each other. The work invites audiences to witness ‘dramas, strange and radiant, disturbing and intoxicating, that will become part of your lives for the duration that it lasts’ (Tom Service, BBC Radio 3).
At the same time, it addresses issues of identity in our contemporary world. Frank Denyer explained to BBC Radio 3’s The New Music Show:
‘I thought, unlike an orchestra, I would like to face a large group of musicians that more or less reflected the society which I feel I’m part of. The society that we live in now has lots of different histories going on. It‘s a diverse, multicultural society, and because these histories have not coexisted in one mental space for very long, we don't know how to deal with them. But I wanted to represent all of them, and that’s not only in the societies in the present, but also we bring things from the past’.
Photo: Graham Hardy
Photo: Graham Hardy
Just as the ensemble is made up of unconventional, it is structured quite unlike a conventional orchestra. The Fish that Became the Sun is made up of lots of small groups; micro-communities which rehearse separately, coming together for the concert. They are separated spatially in a performance, so that musical gestures are passed around the performance space. The audience can really appreciate the interaction between the groups – as well as watching the conductors, the musicians turn and take cues from each other.
‘I had an image I suppose of a society, a town, a way of life in decay. … When I was writing it I had this image of that marvelous man – wasn’t he in Sarajevo? The man who went out and played the ‘cello. It was in that conflict anyway. It seemed to be a very meaningful gesture. There are bombs landing all around, and absolute mayhem, but this man is going out, courageously, into an open public space, and just playing the ‘cello. And I wanted that image of (in my case) a violinist, who is ever present in the piece, but he’s not always playing. That role that he has, that figure there, is apart from everything else. It represents another world; a kind of saner world…’