The Marginalian
The Marginalian

A Eulogy to Words: The Only Recording of Virginia Woolf’s Voice, Adapted for Chamber Orchestra

“Our unconsciousness is their privacy; our darkness is their light.”

In April of 1937, Virginia Woolf delivered a beautiful treatise on language and craftsmanship as part of a BBC broadcast, which remains the only surviving recording of the author’s voice. Composer Brian Mark has enchanted it with new life in A Eulogy to Words — a mesmerizing multimedia mashup of Woolf’s recording and a composition for chamber orchestra, featuring horn, harp, piano, tape, and electronics. The 10-minute gem, written for London’s Royal Academy of Music and conducted by Michael Alexander Young, is the best thing since the Solar System set to Bach and Carl Sagan adapted as a three-movement choral suite. “I have wanted to write this piece for 8 years,” Mark tells me — and how glad I am that he did.

All we can say about [words], as we peer at them over the edge of that deep, dark and only fitfully illuminated cavern in which they live — the mind — all we can say about them is that they seem to like people to think and to feel before they use them, but to think and to feel not about them, but about something different. They are highly sensitive, easily made self-conscious. They do not like to have their purity or their impurity discussed. … They hang together, in sentences, in paragraphs, sometimes for whole pages at a time. They hate being useful; they hate making money; they hate being lectured about in public. In short, they hate anything that stamps them with one meaning or confines them to one attitude, for it is their nature to change.

Hear Woolf’s original broadcast, along with the complete transcript, here.

Published August 1, 2013




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