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Nico Muhly

Publisher: Chester Music

Old Bones (2013)
Commissioned by Wigmore Hall
St. Rose Music Publishing
Solo Voices and 1-6 players
Year Composed
11 Minutes
Alternate Orchestration
countertenor; clar, harp, pf(cel), strings
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Programme Note
Nico Muhly Old Bones (2013)
Old Bones combines texts taken from the media around the rediscovery of Richard III's bones with fragments of poetry in praise of Syr Rhys ap Tomas, who is said to have killed the king. Philippa Langley of the Richard III Society gave a series of extraordinary interviews in which she humanises the mythology surrounding Richard III, and insists on our noticing the details of his daily life: "The scientists say you can't see character in bones – but for me, you kind of can." The poetry, too, operates mythologically as well as practically: a young man has come to protect the community, but suddenly he is a rose, a star, a hawk. Old Bones begins with a news report, delivered as a sort of recitative, and moves through several episodes of lute patterns before landing on a stylised processional music. The piece ends with the phrase, "Everyone else was looking at old bones, and I was seeing the man."
— Nico Muhly

Text: Richard Buckley, Philippa Langley, Guto'r Glyn

It is the academic conclusion that beyond reasonable doubt, the individual exhumed at Greyfriars in September Two thousand and twelve is indeed Richard the third, the last Plantagenet King of England.

They dug in that spot, and the leg bones were revealed.
I was overcome with emotion;
I was overcome with emotion;
I was overcome with emotion;
Everyone else was looking at old bones,
I was looking at the real man And I was seeing the man.
Everyone else was looking at old bones,
I was looking at the real man.
Now a young man has come to protect us from violence,
The Saint is a roofbeam over the three counties,
Over lands, of Elidir's lineage.
All his factions are flowers for us.
Sir Rhys himself is a rose.
He is a man, too, in war.
He was a fearless young man.
There was a battle, like that of Peredur The Ravens of Urien prepared it.
King Henry won the day through the strength of our master:
He killed Englishmen, capable hand,
He killed the boar.
He chopped off his head Sir Rhys like the stars of a shield with the spear in their midst on a great steed.
I have loved the dubbed knight of Carmarthen,
The hawk of the fortress of gold and wine is loved by all.
When you're writing a screenplay, you walk a thousand miles in their shoes every day.
I wasn't interested in Richard's death; but in his life.
I thought: "I should go to Leicester" The first time I stood in that car park The strangest feeling just washed over me.
I thought: "I am standing on Richard's grave." Richard wanted to be found.
We know that he was working through the pain barrier every day just to do his job.
That tells me about his character.
I think the time is right.
I think the time is right.
I think the time is right.
With our science, with our knowledge, with the time of the Paralympics;
I think he was saying: "Now you can under stand me.
I'm ready.
I'm ready I'm ready to be reburied, and I'm ready to be found."

Everyone else was looking at old bones, and I was seeing the man.

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