Nocturnal, after Benjamin Britten

Dwyer, Benjamin ORCID logoORCID: (2015) Nocturnal, after Benjamin Britten. [Composition]

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Nocturnal, after Benjamin Britten is, of course, inspired by Britten’s work for solo guitar – his famous Nocturnal, after John Dowland, Op. 70. Britten’s guitar masterpiece is a set of variations and an extended passacaglia based on Dowland’s lute song, Come Heavy Sleep. One of the most special features of the work is that the variations and passacaglia precede the theme, which emerges only at the very end of the work after the music has gone through many transformations and explorations.

I decided to pay homage to Britten in my piece by employing a theme from his opera Gloriana – the Second Lute Song of the Earl of Essex (from Act I, scene ii). However, this work is only Britten’s through appropriation, as it is itself based on a madrigal by the English composer Thomas Wilbye (1574-1638) called ‘Happy, Oh Happy He’ from his Second Book of Madrigals (1608). So my Nocturnal functions structurally and thematically like a kind of palimpsest in that if you scrape away at the score you discover older music (Britten’s), and if you continue scraping you find even older music again (Wilbye’s). On one level, my Nocturnal is a kind of archeological dig into English music.

Item Type: Composition
Research Areas: A. > School of Media and Performing Arts > Performing Arts > Music group
Item ID: 29544
Useful Links:
Depositing User: Benjamin Dwyer
Date Deposited: 27 May 2020 07:31
Last Modified: 27 May 2020 07:35

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