Remote Galaxy Op.81 | Digging Deeper

It is not often that the viola da gamba features as a solo instrument in contemporary music, and it is, perhaps, rather strange that so few composers today seem interested in the clean and delicate sound of this instrument, much loved and much used in baroque music. Flint Juventino Beppe is a musician who relishes going his own way and in Remote Galaxy, where he takes us on a journey in sound, time and space, he chooses the viola da gamba, along with a glass harmonica, as his equipage, so to speak. In Remote Galaxy time has become an abstract and relative term. Since the galaxy is billions of light years away from us, we see it as it was billions of years ago; its present time is also its past time, and therefore in this context our own "now" becomes  mind-bogglingly irrelevant. It is this profound philosophical standpoint, a hallmark of Beppe, that moulds a narrow, highly concentrated perception of sound at times chillingly cold, at times red hot. Beppe's music always embodies an element of dualism, more so in this particular composition than ever before.
Wolfgang Plagge, professor

The very first time I listened to the instruments glass harmonica and viola da gamba, I became instantly and immensely fascinated by their unique individual quality, and the auditory gap these two instruments fill in the gamut of existing instruments. They both hold a distinctive non-voluminous character, and demand acute treatment of balance both in scores and in performance. Not only do surroundings seem frailer around these instruments, but they may also seem further away, for example when the dynamics of "ppp" are skillfully carried out. I envisioned these special qualities from the very commencement of composing Remote Galaxy Op.81 a work that is written especially for the musician Ralph Rousseau in mind, and particularly his openness to playing the viola da gamba outside the traditional frames of baroque practice.

The viola da gamba is an instrument with bands, like a guitar. The seven strings on the instrument used in Remote Galaxy Op.81 provide the instrument with a very wide register, which corresponds aptly with the "atmospheric conditions" essential in this work. The glass harmonica could be described as representing a tender "mass" in the mentioned galaxy, and this instrument enhances the sense of claustrophobia or suffocation one might expect to feel outside the atmosphere; an oxygen bereft area where it seems impossible for human beings to breathe.

Flint Juventino Beppe

The Remote Galaxy is ruled by a queen named Amanda.
She moves around incessantly in this mysterious universe, always protected by "The Little, Strange Army". Then, at a particular point in the composition, Queen Amanda takes her farewell and departs from the Remote Galaxy.

Remote Galaxy Op.81 Album details

Buy the Blu-ray album | Buy the vinyl 

REMOTE GALAXY by Flint Juventino Beppe

Vladimir Ashkenazy, conductor
Ralph Rousseau, viola da gamba

Nominated for a Grammy Award 2015 in the category Best Surround Sound Album.

Work details

Category: Orchestral, a one-movement symphonic poem, featuring the rarely used instruments viola da gamba, glass harmonica and tubular bells.
Instrumentation: 2 flutes, 2 bassoons, Glass Harmonica, Tubular Bells, Timpani, Perc:2, Harp, Viola da gamba, Strings
Composer: Flint Juventino Beppe
Year composed: 2010
First performance: Recorded in 2012 by Ralph Rousseau and Philharmonia Orchestra, conducted by Vladimir Ashkenazy.
Duration: 17:30

Dedicated to Ralph Rousseau.

Ralph Rousseau, soloist on viola da gamba, recording Remote Galaxy Op.81 with Philharmonia Orchestra, conducted by Vladimir Ashkenazy. Flint Juventino Beppe dedicated this work to Rousseau. Photo: Morten Lindberg.


Watch Ralph Rousseau performing Beppe's Lying on a Ledge Op.29b for viola da gamba

First performed: August 13, 2009

Length: 07:00

The title Lying on a Ledge reflects the following for me: A person is wandering in the mountains, but suddenly falls off a cliff and ends up lying on a ledge. Hours and days pass, and no one seems to find him or hears his cries for help. At a certain point of time (the middle of Bar 62), when death draws closer, he suddenly becomes euphoric (as some people report to experience when about to freeze to death), hallucinating he is being rescued. Nevertheless, the piece ends with the person's death. The glissando of the cello might illustrate that something "from above", death, is picking him up to enter an unknown dimension.
Flint Juventino Beppe

Relevant links

  Listen to Reminiscence
  Listen to Vicino alla Montagna
  Listen to Pastorale
  Listen to Awakening
  Listen to The Deal
  Listen to Not really Gone
  Listen to Waltz of the Queen
  Listen to Heart