The writer and academic Malcolm Bradbury once argued that we can find traces of the chaos, contingency, and plurality that typify the modern urban environment embedded in the structure of the modern novel or in the design and form of modernist painting. But in music? I think it is fair to say that classical composers have struggled to find similes as obvious, potent, or effective for the experience of living in a modern city as artists working in other media, or indeed as musicians working in other genres. It’s not for nothing that we commonly speak of urban rap, but not, say of urban symphonic music.
British composer Mark-Anthony Turnage’s nine-movement orchestral suite Blood on the Floor (1996) is, however, just such a thing. This landmark composition was given only its second-ever complete performance in Australia, by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, appropriately enough as part of its ‘Metropolis’ series.