• Poul Ruders
  • Listening Earth (2001)

  • Edition Wilhelm Hansen Copenhagen (World)

Commissioned by and written for The Berlin Philharmonic

  • 3(pic)(2afl).3(ca).3(bcl).3(cbn)/
  • 24 min

Programme Note

Listening Earth - (a symphonic drama for orchestra) - 2001

Commissioned by and written for The Berlin Philharmonic

Listening Earth is a symphonic drama, a one- movement composition in four parts based on the work by two writers, Joseph Addison (1672-1719) and W.H.Auden (1907-1973). Joseph Addison is not particularly well known; he was English, a classical scholar, essayist, poet and politician, but one of his hymns was used by Benjamin Britten. in his setting of a Thomas Tallis canon.

The hymn is singularly beautiful and being a composer always inspired by extramusical stimuli such as poems, nature, paintings, I was immediately convinced when I carne across the Addison hymn, that here was exactly what I wanted to use as my major source of inspiration for this piece, commissioned by and written for The Berlin Philharmonic.
I don't refer to the hymn in its entirety, but have chosen the following 3 excerpts, all acting as mottos for the first three sections of the piece, thus turning the piece into a straightforward tonepoem in the classical sense:

The spacious firmament on high,
With all the blue ethereal sky,
And spangled heavens, a shining frame,
Their great original proclaim.

The title of the piece presents itself in the following verse:

Soon as the evening shades prevail
The moon takes up the wondrous tale,
And nightly to the listening earth
Repeats the story of her birth;

The third part of the piece follows these dramatic lines:

Whilst all the stars that round her bum,
And all the planets in their turn,
Confirm the tidings, as they role,
And spread the truth from pole to pole.

Then 11 September, 2001 happened and personally - and as an artist - I quite simply couldn't end the piece on such a happy and glorious note, however beautiful, so, when the American modem-music web site sequenza2I.com in the days following the attack on New York City and Washington D.C. brought W.H.Auden's poem "September 1, 1939", I found the appropriate text on which to base the fourth and final section of 'listening Earth", which now turns into "Angry Earth'. Auden wrote the poem on the eve of 1 September, the day Hitler and his hordes rolled into Poland:

... Waves of anger and fear
Circulate over the bright
And darkened lands of the earth,
Obsessing our private lives;
The unmentionable odour of death
Offends the September night.

(From Another Time by W.H.Auden, published by Random House. Copyright @1940 W.H.Auden, renewed by The estate of W.H.Auden. Used by permission of Curtis brown, Ltd.)

Listening Earth is scored for 3 flutes, 3 oboes, 3 clarinets, 3 bassoons, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, percussion(4), harp, piano, strings.

Duration approx. 24 mins

- Poul Ruders


Score preview