Paul Barnes is essentially a self-taught amateur pianist and composer harbouring a long-held and over-ambitious desire to add a substantial string-quartet, symphony, piano concerto and a choral work to his collection of short compositions.
Only the first of these ambitions has so far been realised, the string-quartet which is being show-cased today. As a Professor of Physics and Chemistry in the University of London, Barnes’ previous composing activities had to be shoe-horned into the limited time left available after his University ‘day job’. There is some parallel here with the case of Alexander Borodin (1833-1887) who managed to combine his day job as a Professor of Chemistry at Saint Petersburg with becoming one of the ‘Mighty Handful’ 19th. century Russian composers; indeed the Nocturne in his second string quartet arguably ranks as the most popular quartet composition of all time.
If Borodin is then the obvious role model for Barnes, his hauntingly beautiful and timeless Nocturne is no less an object of desired attainment. While aiming high with Layers of Life Barnes, without fully realising it, combined two opposite modes of composition which he termed “formulaic”, a more mechanical/predictable and instantaneous output from the concious mind, and “inspirational”, an unpredictable/uncontrollable delayed output from the subconcious. This technique, or something similar, is used by several composers; Barnes just re-discovered it for himself and while composing “Layers of Life” he took it to a new level by resolving that he would only use inspirational themes to determine the musical direction of “Layers of Life”.
He stuck throughout to this principle, without any compromise towards the length of time it was taking, with the end result that the composition took literally years to complete. This was done in the belief that it would deliver music sufficiently full of character and innermost feelings as befits a professional performance to an appreciative audience. We trust that it will deliver on that promise and give pleasure to all that listen to it.