• Robert Saxton
  • What Does the Song Hope For? (1974)

  • Chester Music Ltd (World)
  • fl.ob.cl/pf/vn.va.vc/tape
  • soprano
  • 12 min
  • W.H. Auden
  • English

Programme Note

WHAT DOES THE SONG HOPE FOR? was written in 1974 while I was an undergraduate at Cambridge University. It was first performed at the 1975 International Gaudeamus Music Week in Holland where it was awarded first prize by the International Jury. Scored for soprano, small ensemble and tape, the work uses two poems by W H Auden.

After the initial instrumental movement, the soprano enters singing 'Orpheus', a short poem in which Auden poses the question as to whether the poet can remain in a 'bewildered and happy state' as opposed to 'having knowledge of life' - the two conditions being apparently incompatible with one another. The second poem, 'Our Bias' ponders the issue of Time and its perception for poets and, by inference, musicians as well. After this section which is scored for voice and piano only, the ensemble re-enters, but now the words of the first poem 'Orpheus' are heard in a jumbled dream-like manner on tape. The music and text literally present the listener with the 'bewildered and happy' state mentioned in Auden's poem. Eventually this subsides and at the end the piano alone remains, closing the piece with an enigmatic tritone - a musical question-mark which mirrors Auden's lack of a definite answer to the questions which have been raised.

Robert Saxton