‘Oh mihi, Duncia!’ or A Mob of Metaphors – a service

for Officiant (Bari), Barbershop Quartet (TTBB) and Female Chorus (SSAA)
October 2011; 9′

Commissioned by: William Brooks and The 24 choir.

Video with score on Score Follower:

Premiere: The 24, York Concert Series, 30th November 2011.

‘This poem, as it celebrateth the most grave and ancient of things, Chaos, Night and Dulness, so is it of the most grave and ancient kind…’

Commissioned to be paired with Gesualdo’s madrigal, O vos omnes, most of this mock-epic for choir sets the last 30 lines of Book IV from Alexander Pope’s The Dunciad (1722, revised 1728/1741).

These 30 lines, which act as an Epilogue to the poem, were divided in direct proportion to the lengths of each Book of The Dunciad plus its Epilogue. The piece takes this model of five sections as its exact structure, so that in ‘Book I’ only a certain amount of text from the Epilogue is set.

Other text appears in the first two sections that does not come from the poem, but from the the poem’s original publications, where the character of Martinus Scriblerus is expounded in the Preface and Prolegomena. Scriblerus is performed by the OFFICIANT in the piece, who dictates proceedings early on to outline the ARGUMENT of the piece (a formal device taken from the Prolegomena).

Concurrent to the piece’s literary model is a sacred one: a Matins service consisting of an INTROIT (including a Sentence of Scripture), a set of RESPONSES, a VENITE, a PSALM, a LESSON, a JUBILATE, lastly a HYMN.

The piece attempts to compress as much of Pope’s mock-epic into its style, structure, temporal balance and content as possible, to better mimic the complexity of the source text, so that the satire and subject matter may be best communicated to an audience with an level of understanding or knowledge about the text, including none. Musically speaking, the distance between the practices of contemporary music and Barbershop singing is of sufficient interest to me to want to explore these two musical loves of mine, and share the outcome with a perhaps unsuspecting audience…