Richard Carrick’s Family Resemblances



Sounding Now Festival
Sunday, 14 April 2019 @ 7:30pm
Yong Siew Toh Conservatory, Orchestra Hall

Contributed by Lee Jia Yi (BMus4, YST)

Richard Carrick is a composer, conductor and pianist of French-Algerian and British descent, and is currently based in America, where he is the Chair of Composition at Berklee College of Music. He writes music of “spatial depth and robust stasis, characterized by continual development and the evocation of profound human experiences”[i]. He also co-founded the contemporary music ensemble Either/Or, where he is the co-artistic director; and is a 2015-2016 Guggenheim fellow.

According to the composer himself, two ideas by two distinctively different artists provided the basis of how the three instruments interact with one another in the piece. The first idea is by English film director and producer Alfred Hitchcock, whose films contain elements presented either as suspense or surprise. In presenting all of the musical materials in the piece, Carrick took these concepts of anticipation and unpredictability and interpreted them into a musical context.

The second idea, by philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, is about “Family Resemblances” and the “simultaneous coexistence of both extreme similarities and noticeable differences between two or more complex things, such as the facial resemblances between family members.”[ii]These ideas give rise to how the composer treats the character of each instrument and the material they play.

In the piece, one hears three distinctive characters, represented by the three instruments, which seem independent at first but gradually coincide with each other more often as their gestures become more similar. Yet they eventually return to their characteristic timbres, much like how family members are inherently unique after all. This idea of simultaneity that the composer employed was his initial attempt at this way of working, after which his two later pieces for ensemble, The Veins of Marble(2000/2013) and Cosmicomics (2005), were also based on this concept.

Family Resemblances was originally written in 1997 as FmlrSmblNcs for oboe, piano and percussion, but was subsequently revised in 2012 for soprano saxophone, piano and percussion. The premiere was performed by Nouvel Ensemble Moderne in 1997, and the premiere of the saxophone version will be performed by Patrick Stadler and WuXian Ensemble, as part of the Sounding Now Festival in Singapore.

[i]Balliett, Brad. Current Bio. 2019,

[ii]Carrick, Richard. Family Resemblances. 2012,

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