• Julian Philips
  • How the Whale Became (2013)

  • Peters Edition Limited (World)
  • 2S,T,Bar,B + cl(bcl,Ebcl)/perc/pf/acn/vn(va)
  • Soprano, Soprano, Tenor, Baritone, Bass
  • 1 hr 30 min
  • Edward Kemp and Ted Hughes

Programme Note

How the Whale Became (2013)


A group of creatures clear the weeds in God’s garden. During it Girl teaches Boy a new game: guess which hand the black bean is in – if you win you get a kiss, if you lose, you get a slap. They find a small black bean in the ground and tell the story of Whale Wort:

God is surprised by the appearance of the bean.

The bean grows and grows.

God means to cook it, but he waits too long and then it won’t fit in any of his pans The bean opens an eye. It grows so big it flattens everything around it.

God decides it’s time to get rid of the bean-creature before it takes over everything.

The creature, which calls itself Whale Wort, says it just wants to sleep. God has no memory of creating such a creature, but it is clearly a big problem and will flatten all of creation if it keeps growing as it is. God organises the animals to drag Whale Wort to the coast and they push it into the sea. God pokes a hole in Whale Wort’s head: if Whale Wort wants to get back on land it will have to blow some of itself out until it’s small enough. But every time Whale Wort blows enough out, it gets tired and sinks to the bottom of the sea, and then grows again.

And so it goes on.