In creating a work for classical bassoonist Peter Whelan and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment I drew upon the Experiments and Observations on Different Kinds of Air - a treatise by the Age of Enlightenment British scientist and radical theologian Joseph Priestley. Credited with the discovery of oxygen and the concept of the ecosystem, along with a myriad of inventions (including soda water), Priestley was the rare combination of a free-thinker and man of faith.
Priestley first came in contact with London resident Benjamin Franklin and other Enlightenment figures in 1765 at the biweekly meetings of the Club of Honest Whigs. The club was a free-wheeling alcohol-infused gathering of philosophers, dissenting theologians, and amateur scientists. I can imagine the energy and excitement of these gatherings - the sense of discovery. Observations on Air is an homage to Preistley. The bassoon takes the lead as the other instruments join in conversation. We are in the London Coffee House with the Honest Whigs - the exchange of radical thoughts spinning into music.
Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
Peter Whelan, bassoon, with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment; May 3, 2016 -- St. George's, Bristol, UK