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Last words

Sheet Music: Score

Last words / Andrew Ford.

by Andrew Ford (2013)


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A song cycle comprising musical settings of final poems, letters, diary entries, and, in some cases, deathbed utterances, by mostly famous people from history.

Program note

Even if some of the words I have set to music here are rather terse for songs, Last Words is probably best thought of as a cycle of songs and monologues, strung together to form a single structure.

The basic conceit - that of using the final poems, letters and diary entries of mostly quite famous people, together with a few deathbed utterances - was always going to yield a meditation on mortality and grief, but I felt, early on, that aesthetically this was not enough. No one wants to listen to over half and hour of slow, sad music. What the piece needed was some relief, perhaps some defiance, ideally something that would allow me to write some fast music.

Defiance proved easy enough to find. Chidiock Tichborne writing his poem in the Tower of London the night before Elizabeth I had him executed for treason and Emily Brontë railing at religion, provided plenty of both. Further relief came in the form of Florenz Ziegfeld's delirious ravings and Maurice Chevalier's sudden outburst of happiness. And at the heart of the piece, it seems to me, is Dorothy Porter's quiet delight in the view from her hospital bed.

But in order to write fast music, I had to turn to fiction. Originally, I had intended to include several sets of fictional last words alongside the real ones, but in the end there is just the one passage from the end of Tim Winton's novel Cloudstreet, in which Fish Lamb comes lumbering and clattering along the jetty on his way to the ocean.

Read texts here: http://www.andrewford.net.au/xlastwords.htm

Published by: Australian Music Centre — 1 facsimile score (59p. -- B4 (portrait))

Difficulty: Advanced

Duration: 30 mins

Dedicated to Jane Sheldon, Seraphim Trio

Commissioned by Jane Sheldon with funds provided by Australia Council. Music Board.

First performance by Jane Sheldon, Helen Ayres, Zoe Knighton, Anna Goldsworthy at Last Words (Lecture Hall, Port Fairy) on 12 Oct 2013

Typeset edition.

ISMN: 979-0-720142-59-3

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Last words
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