Quirk: Oddly Uplifting


After last week's bleakness I thought it might be nice to do something very different this week. Karl Jenkins' 'Quirk', a concerto for flute, piano and tuned percussion (I know, right?) is just what it says on the tin - quirky. And not very well known. So not very well known, in fact, that even using all the musical resources I have at university, I could barely find anything written about it.

And yet, I can't for the life of me work out why it's so unknown - I absolutely love it. Quirk showcases Jenkins' melodic and orchestrational abilities. It's full of catchy repetitions, rhythms and tunes and uses its oddness as something to grab your attention. As I've barely found anything written about it, I'll just have to talk you through it from my perspective - and perhaps you can give it a listen and create your own.

I remember listening to the first movement - 'Snap' - as I set off on a train journey and thinking I couldn't have chosen a more perfect soundtrack. It's chugging ostinatos and sweeping string melodies coupled with its grand use of brass really give it a sort of metropolitan but steampunk feel. The displaced rhythms in the second section give the sense of mechanical parts interacting - perhaps deliberately. I've been trying to think where the title comes from, and the best I can come up with (due to the fact that I think it's unlikely to be to do with the sub-genre of hip hop, 'snap music' - although it could be...) is that, well, this movement is just so fun. It's simple yet quirky and childlike - and that coupled with the piano cadenza which sounds like it could be played in a saloon or something suggests to me the idea of card games - ie, 'snap'. I also think this movement feels very pleased with itself, as though it's just been victorious in such a game. Although, I guess it's up to you.

The second movement is very different. 'Raga religioso' uses aspects of different kinds of spiritual music and is, like the first movement, quite repetitive, but in a very different way. Its slow, atmospheric, even meditative quality I think is very effective. And yes, it's cheesy as anything, but somehow I think it works (the same can be said for the entire piece, actually!). It's oddly heartwarming and uplifting. This movement is on my playlist of relaxing music that I often listen to. For me, it conjours up an image of a flickering candle. But again, it's up to you.

The third and final movement, 'Chasing the Goose', I am not ashamed to say is one of my all time favourite things ever in the world. How much fun is this?! After a long percussion cadenza the utterly cheesy and ridiculous but extremely fun melody comes in to end the concerto with a flourish. Again, this movement showcases Jenkins' ability to incorporate all kinds of cultures of music into one piece (as with so much of his work). This movement is, to me, the definition of playful music. It even messes with your expectations at the end. Absolutely bonkers. Love it.

Benjamin JacksonComment