• Martin Dalby
  • Beauty a Cause (1977)

  • Novello & Co Ltd (World)

Commissioned by Masterconcerts Ltd, Glasgow

  • perchpdstr([=])
  • SATB
  • 18 min

Programme Note

Martin Dalby: Beauty A Cause

Beauty A Cause is the second work Dalby has written specially for the John Currie Singers; the first was Orpheus, completed in 1972 and given its first performance that year at the MacRobert Centre, Stirling. Both works were commissioned by the John Currie Singers with the financial assistance of the Scottish Arts Council.

The text of Beauty A Cause is drawn freely from that delightful entertainment in English writing, The Anatomy of Melancholy by Robert Burton who lived from 1577 to 1640. In compiling his famous treatise, Burton himself drew freely from his erudition including the writings and experiences of others. Thus the text of Beauty A Cause contains the testimonies of such varied writers as St Chrysostom and Theomnestus.

Dalby writes: "In celebrating that most glorious of male afflictions awoken by observing the deportment of women, I thought it appropriate to write the music in the French manner. I chose Debussy as a model. More interesting than the intention and result. In the end the music has a taste of early French Church music but far from sounding like Debussy as was intended, the language resembles that of a more recent figure in French music.

I rarely talk of the techniques used in composing my pieces, or where the notes come from; these are private matters and usually of little interest to the listener. Apart from uncovering my own attitude towards the recent history of French composition, I made a second discovery: Beauty A Cause is written in D major or rather the Lydian mode on D. The sharpened fourth degree of the Lydian scale promotes the surprising related key of E flat and a secondary relationship with A flat. As the diabolical ways of the ladies in the text, so in a diabolical key relationship is the tonality of Beauty A Cause firmly set."

© Martin Dalby

Text from The Anatomy of Melancholy by Robert Burton (1577-1640)

Voce, manu, gressu, pectore, fronte, oculis
She kindles love with voice, hand, step, breast, brow, eyes.

When art shall be annexed to beauty, when
wiles and guiles shall concur; for to
speak as it is, love is kind of
legerdemain; mere juggling, a
fascination. When they show their fair
hand, fine foot and leg withal, magnum
suit desiderium nobis relinquunt, they
set us a longing, "and so when they pull
up their petticoats and outward
garments", as usually do to show their
fine stockings, and those of purest
silken dye, gold fringes, laces,
embroiderings, 'tis but a springe to
catch woodcocks; "though they say
nothing with their mouths, they speak
in their gait, they speak with their
eyes, they speak in the carriage of
their bodies". And what shall we say
otherwise of that baring of their necks,
shoulders, naked breasts, arms and
wrists? To what end are they but only
to tempt men to lust?

Nam quid lacteolus sinus, et ipsas
Præ te fers sine linteo papillas?
Hoc est dicere, posce, posce, trado;
Hoc est ad venerem vocare amantes. Why do you show your milk-white breasts
and expose your bosom, as if to say,
"You have but to ask and I deliver"?
Surely this is the call to love.

Bibens amorem hauriebam simul. I drank in love with the draught.

Soluta mihi sunt omnia membra
A capite ad calcem, sensusque omnis periit
De pectore, tam immensus stupor animam invasit mihi

My limbs quivered, I shook from
head to foot, my senses left me, I
was utterly dazed and stupefied.

Alter in alterium jactantes lumina vultus
Quærabant taciti noster ubi esset amor. Eyes looking into eyes asked silently,
Where is your love?

"I am so amorously given, you may sooner
number the sea-sands, and snow falling from
the skies, than my several loves. Cupid
had shot all his arrows at me, I am
deluded with various desires, one love
succeeds another. She that is last is
still fairest, and she that is present
pleaseth me most. Mine eyes are so moist
a refuge and sanctuary of love, that they
draw all beauties to them, and are never

Folia arborum omnium si
Nosti referre cuncta,
Aut computare arenas
In aequore universas,
Solum meorum amorum
Te fecero logistam. Canst count the leaves in May
Or sand i' th' ocean sea?
Then count my loves I pray.