• Martin Dalby
  • Aleph (1975)

  • Novello & Co Ltd (World)

Commissioned by the London Sinfonietta with funds provided by the Arts Council

  • 20001110cym2db
  • 17 min

Programme Note

Martin Dalby: Aleph

Aleph was commissioned by the London Sinfonietta for the Royan Festival with funds provided by the Arts Council of Great Britain. The first performance was in Royan in 1974 by the London Sinfonietta. It is in one continuous movement and is scored for two flutes, horn, trumpet, trombone, two double basses and cymbalom. The music is laid out in such a way that the flutes and basses form a quartet, the brass a trio with the cymbalom standing apart, not so much a soloist as a continuo player.

The score is headed with a quotation from Shakespeare's Hamlet: "O God! I could be bounded in a nutshell, and count myself a King of infinite space…" The same quotation introduces an essay by the Argentinean writer Jorge Luis Borges called the Aleph. In the story an Aleph is one of the points in space that contains all other points; a point where all space is present, actual and undiminished. The thought is an analogy to the impossible dream that many composers share, of the quest for a complete unity, of hearing as one moment the whole time span in which their sounds occur.

Aleph is, of course, the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet and in Jewish mysticism symbolises the spirit - air. At a more reasonable level Dalby's work is in praise of the spirit air.

Much of the music derives from cyphers, including various notations of the words Aleph and Nunc-stans (Eternity is the standing-still of the present time.) Another source for some of the material is the vocal setting of "Aleph" in the Lamentations of Jeremiah by Thomas Tallis.