Against that time: three songs to sonnets by Shakespeare

Hughes, Ed (2014) Against that time: three songs to sonnets by Shakespeare. [Composition]

PDF (Sample from published score)
Download (36kB) | Preview


"Against That Time... Against My Love" is a song cycle comprising three related settings of Shakespeare sonnets (numbers 49, 63 and 126). The sonnets are drawn from a collection of 154 of William Shakespeare's poems on love, beauty and mortality, first published together in 1609. The song cycle was specially commissioned for the combination of mezzo, viola and piano - a combination in which I developed the viola as an intermediary between lyric mezzo and piano, thus expanding ensemble writing in the song genre.

The three sonnets chosen for this sequence meditate particularly on the effect of time upon the appearance of the beloved.

In sonnet 49, the poet anticipates the withering of love and being eventually spurned by the beloved.
Against that time when thou shalt strangely pass And scarcely greet me

Sonnet 63 strikingly notes that although time will ravage youth, it will not be able to efface the memory of beauty:
confounding age's cruel knife, That he shall never cut from memory My sweet love's beauty

Sonnet 149 is thought to be the close of the group of sonnets addressed to the youth, whose beauty is still celebrated even as he ages. There is a hint that he cannot be protected from the ravages of time indefinitely.
She (Nature) may detain, but still not keep, her treasure

In setting these lines, I let their rhythms permeate the melodic writing for the singer. The viola and piano act as a kind of echo chamber for the poet's very direct and intimate thoughts. The poems seem modern in attitude and perceptions; the music's harmonies, though often tonally clear, are occasionally fractured and in tension, like the many images in these poignant texts.

Against That Time... Against My Love was commissioned by Lake District Summer Music 2014 and first performed by Kathryn Rudge (mezzo-soprano), Garfield Jackson (viola) and Duncan Glenday (piano) at Ambleside Parish Church on Tuesday 5 August 2014.

Ed Hughes 2014.

Item Type: Composition
Keywords: song voice Shakespeare composition chamber music
Schools and Departments: School of Media, Film and Music > Music
Subjects: M Music. Literature on music. Musical instruction and study > M Music > M1495 Vocal music > M1497 Secular vocal music > M1611 One solo voice
Related URLs:
Depositing User: Ed Hughes
Date Deposited: 15 Oct 2014 09:56
Last Modified: 15 Oct 2014 09:56

View download statistics for this item

📧 Request an update