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Anthony Payne

Publisher: Chester Music

A Day in the Life of a Mayfly (1981)
Chester Music Ltd
Small Ensemble (2-6 players)
Year Composed
13 Minutes
Programme Note
Anthony Payne A Day in the Life of a Mayfly (1981)
A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A MAYFLY was commissioned by the Fires of London with funds provided by the Arts Council of Great Britain and first performed on 24 September 1981 at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, London.

Many years ago I came across a poetic reference to the brief lifespan of the Mayfly - how it emerges from the water, goes through the transformation from nymph to fly, swarms, mates, then lays its eggs and dies - all in the course of little more than an evening. To the Mayfly, a full and natural span - to us, with our expectation of threescore years and ten, a haunting reminder of the brevity of all animal life compared with the vastness of the cosmos.

A musical idea was born at that time which I have only now had the chance to realise: the idea of a scherzo-cum-tone poem using material based on the humming of insects' wings, thematic lines influenced by their darting, interacting flight patterns, incorporating dislocated waltz rhythms as a mating symbol.

In contrast with these ideas, constantly recurring and lying just beneath the surface when not more readily apparent, exists the calm stillness of larger processes, the ever-running stream from which the Mayfly emerges, mysterious time-spans as human beings perceive them. The intermittent chiming of a bell, for instance, that achieves so little musically during the course of the piece while the fly lives and dies, might, it is hinted, grow and develop if the piece were a hundred times longer.

Score sample

  • Ensemble
    Jane's Minstrels
    Dov Goldberg / O. Gordon / D. Saunders / J. Manning
    Roger Montgomery
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