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World Premiere of Gerald Barry's Kafka's Earplugs at the BBC Proms

Jul. 27, 2023

On August 3, The BBC Philharmonic and Chief Conductor John Storgårds presented the world premiere performance of Gerald Barry's Kafka's Earplugs, a 12-minute work for orchestra focusing on Franz Kafka’s obsession with wearing earplugs to silence the noise around him. The composer notes: "in the music, you are Kafka, hearing the world’s sounds as he heard them. You are inside his head."

Kafka's Earplugs, commissioned by BBC Radio 3, premiered at Royal Albert Hall. Richard Morrison of The Times notes, “…the piece was truly Kafkaesque in that it captured that feeling of a protagonist trapped in a surreal nightmare from which there’s no escape.” 

“The sound world is consistently quiet, from the grinding brass and string chords with which the piece opens, to the insistent pulsing into which it eventually settles…” says Andrew Clements of The Guardian. 


Colin Anderson of Classical Source calls Kafka's Earplugs, “…disturbing, marching sinisterly, always muted with subtle changes of timbre, exclusive to Kafka’s brain, disorientating – that make for compelling listening. A great piece; vintage Barry.”

The entire concert can be viewed on BBC Sounds here.

Listen to Gerald Barry's Canada (2017):
Gerald Barry/Canada/Allan Clayton, voice/City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra/Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla, conductor

To learn more about Gerald Barry, visit

Gerald Barry
Kafka's Earplugs (2023)
for orchestra