I tried. Honestly, I really made an effort. I read the synopsis twice before the performance at London’s Coliseum. I know the work of English composer, Sir Harrison Birtwhistle, is “difficult”. I’ve savoured Gawain and The Minotaur in the past. So, I tried really, really hard. But I just couldn’t figure out what The Mask of Orpheus, first staged by English National Opera (ENO) in 1986, was all about.

I tried harder. I turned to Sir Harrison’s own words: “Essentially, I’m concerned with repetition, with going over and over the same event from different angles so that a multi-dimensional musical object is created, an object which contains a number of contradictions as well as a number of perspectives.” Lost me there.

I tried even harder: “I don’t create linear music, I move in circles, more precisely, I move in concentric circles”. Arriving where, precisely, Sir Harrison? Sorry, more lost.

Again: “The events I create move as the planets move in the solar system. They rotate at various speeds. Some move through bigger orbits than others and take longer to return.” Eh?

Yet again: “To find a narrative to match this way of proceeding, I had to turn to myth, for only in myth do you find narratives which are not linear.” Um… ? What in any life experience IS linear?

Revelation! I might not be getting far, but I now understood why Sir Harrison had picked the complex Orpheus legend upon which to base The Mask of Orpheus. In 1986 the cognoscenti loved it. Warning. This work is not populist.

In 1977 NASA launched the two Voyager probes, eventually destined for interstellar space. For the benefit of curious, passing aliens they each were kitted out with an etched golden disc, which extra-terrestrials could obviously slot into their universal cosmic CD players, and be enlightened by – amongst some banal pop tunes – Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos.