The Undiscover’d Country

for ensemble

Anthony Payne

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for ensemble

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Composer Anthony Payne
Year of Composition 2013
Duration ca.18'
Forces fl/picc, ob/ca, cl, hn, pf, vln, vla, vc
Categories (all composers)
Catalogue ID ce-ap1tuc1


Commissioned by Music at Paxton.

Sometime after starting work on my ‘Paxton chamber piece’, as I’d been calling it, I went to a production of Hamlet, and during the play’s most famous monologue, the title which had so far proved elusive suddenly leaped out at me: ‘Death’, says Hamlet, ‘the undiscovered country from whose bourne no traveller returns’.

What made that resonant phrase so apposite was that it had conceived a structure which evolved out of an initial stream of particles, and reached apparent fulfilment only to find itself quite unexpectedly in an altogether different world, that ‘undiscovered country’. A long, still piccolo solo unfolds – a sound which has so far not been heard in the work, while shades of earlier material make dislocated appearances, divorced from their original significance. And so the music fades away, not in death perhaps, but on some other cosmic plane.

It is hard to find words to describe the mysterious relationship between thoughts and feelings and musical processes which constitutes a piece of music, and the reluctance of some composers to write descriptive programme notes is very understandable. Roberto Gerhard, that great progressive of the 1960s, used to say that an audience only needs to know the length of a new piece. So, let me conclude by saying that mine should last about 18 minutes.