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Birtwistle composed this piece for the London Sinfonietta; he also conducted its first performance. It has become a standard work in the ensemble repertoire everywhere in the decades since then – and no wonder; it is highly appealing, playful and diversified instrumental theatre music (similar to Secret Theatre), in which “mechanisms,” i.e. groups behaving like mechanical devices, declare hostilities against one another in various rhythmic patterns and registers.
At age 33, Birtwistle had already found his own musical language, which he used to relate Carmen Arcadiae; its multitude of characteristic traits would come to mark his subsequent compositions.