• Peter Dickinson
  • Late Afternoon in November (1975)

  • Novello & Co Ltd (World)

Commissioned by the BBC for the 21st anniversary of the BBC Northern Singers

  • 16 solo voices (this number may be doubled, trebled or quadrupled)
  • 13 min

Programme Note

Late Afternoon in November was commissioned by the BBC for Stephen Wilkinson and the BBC Northern Singers. Previously Stephen Wilkinson had performed with this group three other works of mine, including The Dry Heart, composed in 1967.

In the new piece I wanted to create a close correspondence between words and music. As in a number of recent works, such as Recorder Music for recorders and tape (available on EMI), I took an object from my own earlier creative life and worked on this. This time I took a simple landscape poem, of no particular interest in itself, which I wrote some years ago, and built the music from a close scrutiny of its words and even the letters of the alphabet. The mood of the original experience I had in writing the poem may be reflected in the bleak simplicity of the deliberately static music.

The mist hangs in clusters.
Smoke from farmers' fires,
And incipient darkness
Compete to banish day.

The cold air is thick
And hangs in suspension.
The pheasants mix mutterings
With the purr of a farm tractor.

Puddles and rich mud
Possess the Roman road,
Marking in its track
Centuries of confused twilights.

The moist earth reigns here.
There are no houses, no cars;
And the only movement is
In the black pines
Silently stabbing the mist.

© Peter Dickinson