Silbury Air in London

Reading time: 2 min. Harrison Birtwistle


Harrison Birtwistle’s Silbury Air will be performed on 25 November at the St John’s Smith Square in London by Martyn Brabbins and the London Sinfonietta.

Harrison Birtwistle on Silbury Air:

Silbury Air is named after Silbury Hill, a prehistoric mound in Wiltshire, the biggest artificial mound in Europe, being 125 feet high and covering more than five acres. Its use and purpose, after centuries of speculation, still remain a mystery. The music of the Air is not in any way meant to be a romantic reflection of the hill's enigmatic location – nor a parallel with any of its evident geometry. Seen from a distance the hill presents itself as an artificial but organic intruder on the landscape.




I have often alluded to my music of landscape presenting musical ideas through the juxtaposition and repetition of “static blocks” of, preferable for my terminology, objects. These objects themselves being subjected to a vigorous invented logic via modes of juxtaposition, modes of repetition, modes of change. The sum total of these processes is a compound artificial landscape or “imaginary” landscape, to use Paul Klee's title.



You can view Deborah Pritchard’s music map to Silbury Air in high resolution on the website of the London Sinfonietta.

Silbury Air will be performed together with Wolfgang Rihm’s Chiffre II and works by Xenakis and Matthews.

View the full scores of Silbury Air and Chiffre II:


Silbury Air
Chiffre II


Watch London Sinfonietta Principal Players Paul Silverthorne and Mark van de Wiel discuss the work:



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