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Desiderata (1973)

Duration: 10 minutes

Go placidly amid the noise and haste
And remember what peace there may be in silence...

This short work for narrator (baritone with a good American accent!) and orchestra (2 fls [2o=picc.]; 2cls [in Eb and A]; ob; bsn; 2hns; 3 perc; pno [=celeste]; harp; strings) is based on Max Ehrman's ditty "Desiderata" (which has found its way onto many a loo wall, especially in the sixties and seventies of last century) and to which he added the coy rider: "found in Old St Paul's church, Baltimore, dated 1692".

The work is a tone poem, almost Ivesian in its cosmic scope; treated partly as an autobiographical sketch; partly as a critique of American values. The ten minute span is broken into five equal sections: the number 10, in fact, controls everything in the piece. Each section explores a different type of canon, culminating in the "Canonica Ultima", exploiting many different technical devices simultaneously.

The listener is not really aware of all this, however, at a more immediate level, but rather of the highly charged narrative and the parade of orchestral images it evokes.... Towards the end, when the laid-back narrator is joined by a number of voices barking from the orchestra, the atmosphere becomes increasingly dramatic (or melodramatic!)

MP3 audio extract (1'22"):

Other Orchestral Music:
Judith's Doubt and Resolve
Fanfares and Nocturnes