I visited Bucharest in September 2017, for the wonderful Enescu Festival, (where my work Yes, I remember— was being performed by the brilliant London Chamber Orchestra). I had a day off after the concert, which I spent wandering around the city, absorbing the many sights and sounds it has to offer.
Towards the end of the day, and rather exhausted, I came across Revolution Square, where there is a famous (and rather grotesque) statue of the politician Iuliu Maniu. A few tourists were eagerly taking photos of it, and in their haste they were stumbling and stepping over what seemed to be a lump of concrete. I took a closer look.
The lump of concrete turned out to be a sculpture of a person, lying in a near-foetal position, as if settled down to sleep rough for the night. It was missing its feet, and had been made from two pieces of stone and therefore had a large crack through the middle (see my photo, above).
My immediate interpretation, which caused a powerful response in me, was that it was a sculpture of a homeless man. Anonymous (the face worn down, unrecognisable); his feet cut out from beneath him; broken-hearted / literally split in two. However the most powerful aspect was that, perhaps due to the clever positioning of the statue, passers-by just did not see it - even when they even stepped over it!
I was moved to write this piece of music with a title that I thought described this statue very well: The Invisible Man.
(I have no idea who the statue is by, or what it is really called; it is interesting that the Iuliu Maniu statue is known as The Broken Man, as I discovered later. And perhaps in keeping with the transitory nature of what I supposed to be the subject, I can find no trace of the sculpture online since returning to England. If you know anything about it, please contact me)
The Invisible Man was commissioned by a donor who would prefer to remain anonymous, for the French hornist Bob Shaw.
The world premiere was given by Bob Shaw (French horn) and Tim Benjamin (piano) on 21st July 2018.
“It's always nice when a composer writes something a little different. ‘The Invisible Man’ by Tim Benjamin is fun to play and uses many of the techniques a horn player is likely to face. It was a pleasure to collaborate with Tim in this exciting new work for horn and piano.”
— Bob Shaw
French horn, piano
This is a recording of Bob Shaw and Tim Benjamin performing The Invisible Man.