BABEL, a composition project taking over ten years to compose, containing 103 individual pieces of music and calling on the services of 48 collaborators, was released on a 5-CD set in 1999.
For me the idea of the Tower of Babel is both as a futuristic skyscraper and an embodiment of the multiplicity of musical language.
Babel is a large-scale musical structure with each piece of music being thought of as a 'room' or place (or dream place) within an enormous tower city.
In the main section are 3 albums where each track corresponds to a virtual architecture. There are many links between tracks e.g. the saxophonist in The Dressing Room is rehearsing for her solos in Pagoda Charm [BABEL - Temple Music].
As a Babel supplement are the 2 albums of KBBL - the Tower's fictitious radio station. Each of its 4 'shows' has its own style and atmosphere. Collaborating with DJs, actors, writers and singers, KBBL is made to sound like a real radio station with ads, traffic reports, phone-ins etc. (BABEL [KBBL] - Earth At Full-Moon/Leisure Pursuits).
There are dozens of links between the radio station and the tower. - which become clear after repeated listenings.
The solos in these recordings evolved in collaboration with the individual performers and I am extremely grateful to Jo and Olwen for their unique talents. See track info for more detaii.
'This is a phenomenal listening experience of Wagnerian dimensions by composer Roger Doyle─and, arguably, Wagnerian ambitions.
The whole concept is amazing. Pieces are interlinked not just via the translocation of snippets, but via imagined stories (an instrumentalist heard in one track might be warming up for his/her solo in another track, for example). The rooms of the tower are individually characterized, along with the invocation of a panoply of imagined spaces: the orientalisms of the initial “Concert Music─Pagoda Charm”, for example. Doyle's composition is virtuosic; his imagination seems to know no bounds. His technique of voice cut-ups and snippets of sound, which seems to owe a debt to the electronic music of Stockhausen, is perhaps heard in its purest form in “The Room of Rhetoric” from the “Chambers and Spirit Levels” section.
......Doyle's music can be tremendously evocative. The use of solo horn in the nocturnal scene that is “Yunnus” from “Temple Music” works extremely well. He can do delicacy, too: the keening phrases of “The Stairwell” from “Chambers & Spirit Levels” is a case in point. But it is the unpredictability of much of what we hear, coupled with the ability to create a whole new individual universe, is what appeals here.
Finally, for Babel, the disc entitled, “Delusional Architecture”.... for sheer zaniness, “Vertical Figures in Stone” takes some beating. Olwen Fouere is wonderful here. The track only lasts five minutes, but seems to encapsulate all that is special about Babel: virtuoso composition, an ear that can imagine entire (and musically consistent) universes; humor; otherworldliness; and a curious depth that seems to imply some sort of extraterrestrial otherness. The humor is carried over into “Beautiful Day” (whatever you imagine this piece as sounding like, I would bet money you are wrong). The entire edifice ends with a death: “Mr Foley's Final Moments”, a dark conclusion to a kaleidoscopic listening experience'.
Colin Clarke. Fanfare Magazine (USA) January 2014.
Lengthy interview about Babel from 1999: www.cmc.ie/articles/article277.html