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Work of the Week – Gerald Barry: Kafka’s Earplugs

Kafka's World of Sound: The BBC Philharmonic, under the baton of John Storgårds, will perform the world premiere of Kafka's Earplugs by Gerald Barry at the Royal Albert Hall as part of the BBC Proms on the 3rd of August 2023.

Throughout his life, Franz Kafka maintained an intriguing relationship with music and ambient sounds. Lacking modern technology, he employed earplugs to muffle external noise. His focus on auditory perception is manifested in his writings; Kafka wields what is heard to shift perception and craft illusions. This perspective illuminates the notion of "Kafkaesque" as an entirely auditory phenomenon. Consequently, acoustic apprehension of the world is significant in Kafka's creations, a theme revisited in Barry's Kafka's Earplugs.

Acoustic Perception of the World: Kafka’s Earplugs by Gerald Barry

Gerald Barry's music can be characterised as at times simple, aggressive, or even humorous, but never dull or tedious. Barry's musical language possesses a distinct sound, capable of conveying profound emotions through straightforward dynamic shifts. In Kafka's Earplugs, Barry captures Kafka's perception of auditory sensations, guiding the listener into a fascinating realm of sound.

“In the music you are Kafka, hearing the world’s sounds as he heard them. You are inside his head. - Gerald Barry

Kafka's Earplugs was commissioned by BBC Radio 3 and will be performed as part of the BBC Proms 2023.



Gerald Barry: Composer Profile

Kafka’s Earplugs: Work Details and Online Score

Website BBC Philharmonic 

Website BBC Proms

Link to broadcast/recording 


Photo: Adobe / gna60