for countertenor, drone, optional tape (2022)

to Tom Williams




This piece is a setting of an 8th-century poem attributed to Bede. The poem is written in Anglo-Saxon (Old English) in the Northumbrian dialect.

According to the testimony of Cuthbert, a disciple of Bede’s, the poem was dictated by Bede on his deathbed, though attribution is not certain. Bede fell ill, ‘with frequent attacks of breathlessness and almost without pain’, just before Easter 735, and died on Ascension Day.

The optional recording recreates the sounds of night that might be heard from Bede’s cell in Jarrow, including owl calls: barn owl remains have been found at Jarrow and other Anglo-Saxon monastic sites, suggesting that their nocturnal presence was noted by monastic communities, whose daily activities began during the hours of darkness.