• Peter Dickinson
  • Outcry (1969)

  • Novello & Co Ltd (World)

Commissioned by the Coventry Philharmonic Society with funds from the Arts Council

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  • Contralto; SATB; 2pf
  • SATB
  • contralto
  • 35 min
  • Peter Dickinson
  • Blake (no.1), Hardy (nos.2&4) and Clare (nos.3&5)
  • English

Programme Note

1. From Auguries of Innocence, William Blake
2. The Blinded Bird, Thomas Hardy
3. Badger, John Clare
4. Horses Aboard, Thomas Hardy
5. Nature’s Hymn to the Deity, John Clare

Nature is the link between these poems, but the villain of them all is man. The first four poems describe examples, repulsive and poignant, of how "some to misery are born". The end of Hardy's poem 'Horses Aboard' catches the futility of mass slaughter, and here, as elsewhere, "man's inhumanity to man" is also implied. In this context, the last poem, by John Clare, shows man at odds both with nature and with God. "Outcry" is not only the sound of the hunted animal, or the protest of an onlooker, but also the horrified recognition of man as the outlaw and the outsider.

The music often has a slow, ritual quality; the work was in fact composed at the same time as a setting of the Mass, and there are deliberate relationships between them. The selection from Blake's "Auguries of Innocence" is linked to the Kyries; 'The Blinded Bird' to the Agnus Dei; 'Badger' can be seen as a somewhat perverted form of the Gloria; 'Nature's Hymn to the Deity' recalls the Sanctus.

The first movement is scored mainly for brass; the second, for strings with woodwind and horns; the third represents the sustained violence of the narrative with a battery of sound, including whistles; the fourth movement is a contralto solo, with strings and piano, while, in the final setting, simple blocks of slowly moving sound build up towards a majestic affirmation, which, at the end, is destroyed.

© Peter Dickinson