for soprano, drone, optional tape (2022)

to Irene Kurka


f.p. Irene Kurka, The Green Room, Köln, 16 September 2022


This piece is a setting of the 7th-century hymn of Cædmon, the first named English poet. The poem is written in Anglo-Saxon (Old English) in the Northumbrian dialect.

In Bede’s account, Cædmon was a herdsman and lay brother of Whitby Abbey, who had never composed poetry before this Hymn came to him in a dream, after which he was encouraged by the abbess, St Hild, to compose many further poems, which Bede describes as possessing ‘much sweetness and humility.’

I have tried to place the Hymn in an aural landscape that reflects Cædmon’s world as well as the wonder at creation the poem articulates. The birds imitated by the singer would have been as familiar on the coastline of Anglo-Saxon Northumbria as they are today; additionally a recording of countryside with sheep can be used.