• Michael Nyman
  • The Convertibility of Lute Strings (1992)

  • Chester Music Ltd (World)

Written for Virginia Black

  • Harpsichord
  • 17 min

Programme Note



The title refers to the late 16th century practice described by Christopher Nicholl in his book 'The Reckoning', on the death of Christopher Marlowe. Money lenders would offer a 'commodity' in lieu of cash - goods said to be worth the sum to be borrowed but that were found to be valued far lower when sold (often to the lender) for the hard cash required. Lute strings were, surprisingly, a very popular commodity.

This fascinating piece of information is of no relevance to this composition: the harpsichord lute stop is never used and, unlike my String Quartet No.1 which feeds off John Bull's Walsingham Variations and La Traversee de Paris which recomposes some Couperin movements, The Convertibility of Lute Strings makes no overt reference to harpsichord literature.

However, at its still(-ish) (off-)centre there is a reference to the closing section of my 'neurological opera' The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat as a homage to the generosity of the neurologist Dr. Anthony Roberts, who commissioned this work for Virginia Black, a fellow student of mine at the Royal Academy of Music, under Geraint Jones, some thirty years ago.

Michael Nyman
October 1992