Commissioned for the BBC Radio 4 programme "Not Now, I'm Listening"

  • 11 min

Programme Note

There are five 'runes', making together a miniature symphony in movements of strong character for all their brief duration. The third and last movements feature virtuoso marimba parts.

Read about this work at

The five short movements of RUNES were written for the Sunday lunchtime magazine programme, ‘Not Now, I’m Listening’ and were first broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on 6 November 1977. The work was first performed in concert by the Fires of London at the 1978 Edinburgh Festival.

The pieces are in a very real sense runic, having ‘crossword-puzzle’ features involving magic square, acrostics and plainsong transformations – but at the same time they have, for me, ‘picture-postcard’ qualities, in that each movement is associated with a particular part of my own island and its related musical acoustic. The listener is encouraged to fill out his own miniature sea and island soundscapes from the patterns my ‘runes’ provide.

© Peter Maxwell Davies


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