Words And Music (Rick Jones Music Blog

A Clockwork Operetta was written to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of Anthony Burgess’ novel A Clockwork Orange in 1962. The music is by the prolific Kevin Malone whose music for 9/11 was Words and Music ‘s Disc of the Day on 4 January. The script is part of Burgess’ screenplay which Kubrick rejected for his film adaptation. It’s not altogether coherent and the booklet provides no text beyond the subheadings, Preamble – Feeling a bit shagged – Feeling shagged (again) etc, which is only moderately helpful. It’s still a tour de force though by American mezzo Emily Howard who vocalises in extraordinary ways – authentic cockney, sprechstimme, jazz, Bessie Smith blues, finger-in-ear folk. In the last phrase alone she morphs from operatic bel canto to mad, croaking hag without breaking the phrase.

Malone’s music is as violently expressive as the text and surprisingly economical in its scoring for viola and piano. Snatches of Beethoven make appearances as they do in the film. And the book. Thugs who like Ludwig. Wasn’t that the Nazis? Anyway, three other works by Malone are included. Howard is again the brilliant interpreter of The Radio Song now with full text by Malone himself included. The clarinet imitates the eerie feedback of airwave-wandering before the rhythms start to dance at the chosen wavelength.

American Terpsichore is a hard-hitting jazz score for piano trio and Angels and Fireflies, a modernist work for recorder and string orchestra. The sleeve is a mess and rather tiring just to look at, but the music is worth it. Malone is making himself known. He’s American (Buffalo) so probably not Gareth’s brother.

—Rick Jones