• Michael Nyman
  • On the Fiddle (1993)

  • Chester Music Ltd (World)

Commissioned by the 1993 Vale of Glamorgan Festival

  • Violin [Cello]pf
  • version also available for solo violin[cello]/str
  • 15 min

Programme Note



On the Fiddle consists of three pieces derived from music from the scores I have written for Peter Greenaway films. The first, Miserere Paraphrase, was written for use in 'The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover' (1989), and is a transcription of my setting of the 'Miserere' text (Psalm 51) sung in the film by a boy soprano and mixed chorus. The second, Angelfish Decay, is an arrangement of an arrangement: the music for the speeded up time lapse decaying animal sequences in 'A Zed and Two Noughts' was written for two violins and harpsichord: this was subsequently 'reduced' to a violin solo for 'Zoo Caprices' (1996) and also recomposed in a slowed-down version in which, however, every B-flat chord is represented in its original high speed form. For On the Fiddle, a piano part has been added. The final piece, Full Fathom Five, is a version of the Shakespeare song setting I made for 'Prospero's Books' (1990).

After I had decided to write three violin pieces, unified not only by their cinematic origins but more importantly by the alteration of slow fast music, I discovered (through a Radio 4 quiz) that the origin of the phrase 'On the Fiddle' is as follows: illegal street gamblers who were running 'Find the Lady' sessions would have a member of their gang holding a violin, on the lookout for the police. When a policeman came in view, the and the gamblers would disperse into the crowd.

Michael Nyman 1993


On The Fiddle: Full Fathom Five
On The Fiddle: Angelfish Decay
On The Fiddle: Miserere Paraphrase


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