Songs for a Dying World

Programme Note

Songs for a Dying World is a set of six songs which explore the passing of time and the destruction that time brings. The first, third and fifth songs set extracts of Isaiah 24, and present apocalyptical visions of the end of the world. The remaining three songs, all settings of Percy Bysshe Shelley, describe ruins and reflect on the lost glory of fallen civilisations. The fourth song sets the famous poem ‘Ozymandias’, which depicts the shattered remains of a statue of a once-great king. The second and sixth songs set extracts from Shelley’s long poem ‘Queen Mab’, including a passage about Palmyra, chosen in order to explore its obvious contemporary resonances.

The world in which we live is a precarious one, and it is the insecurity of human existence – above all the looming threat of climate catastrophe – which prompted me to write Songs for a Dying World. The piece does not deal with these threats directly, however, and is rather a meditation on the transience of all human endeavour written in a time of uncertainty.


10th February 2018
Rachel Maby, RCM students, Matthew Hardy
Amaryllis Fleming Concert Hall, RCM, London

Year: 2017
Duration: 30′
Instrumentation: Soprano, Ensemble (2cl(II=bcl) – 2hn – hp – 4vln.2vla.2vc.1db)

1 – ‘Behold, the Lord maketh the earth empty’
2 – Palmyra
3 – ‘The new wine mourneth’
4 – Ozymandias
5 – ‘Fear, and the pit, and the snare’
6 – Desert