World upon World

Daryl Runswick BBC Symphony Orchestra

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CoMA soloists: Tom Whitehouse, flute.
Paul Burnell, oboe. Chloë Stothart, alto sax.
Karen Hunt, tenor horn. Michael Brooks,
trombone. Alan Taylor, bass clarinet.

CYM Choir conductor Simon Foxley.

 

 

Daryl Runswick writes: World upon World (2000, BBC commission) is scored for orchestra, children's choir, instrumental
soloists and pre-recorded speaking voices. Its subject matter is the nature of time as experienced by us all. In
February 2000 I visited and worked with three groups, all of whom contributed creatively to the project: first, elderly
people from Toynbee Hall, a day centre in the East End of London, whose considerations and anecdotes I recorded
(and which can be heard in playback during the piece); second, the Hackney Centre for Young Musicians, who formed
a choir and helped me compose the melodies on which World upon World is based, and whose child's experience of time
forms the remainder of the work's text; and third, six instrumentalists from Contemporary Music-Making for Amateurs,
whose improvised solos are interspersed throughout the performance.

World upon World is in seven continuous sections which can be said to group themselves into three 'movements'.
The first movement contains three sections: 1) Age, with pre-recorded narration 2) Childhood, mostly improvised and
sung by the choir, and 3) War, in which the Toynbee group's experiences from the Blitz lead on to a big orchestral
climax. The second movement has two sections: 4) Youth, with improvisation and narration, and 5) Death, with
narration over a floating orchestral texture. The third movement is also in two sections: 6) Time, improvised with
orchestral accompaniment, and 7) World, a choral and narrative summing-up and recapitulation of all that has gone
before.

 

                                                  

 

1              Age

That's how it was. One bed, and everybody slept in one bed, very big bed, top and bottom. They slept 5 at the bottom,
5 at the top. 'Cept my mother, she had one baby born in a bed and one baby's dying in the same bed. My mother had that.

For me it seems very slow, but as I'm getting older it seems going very quick. [That's right, that's what I think.] I don't –
I don't want to get old, but you see now, each year, each year comes very quick.

– And you don't realise you're getting – getting older.
– Oh no.
– You don't realise you're going to be old when you're young.
– When we were...
– You don't think you're going to be old.

2              Childhood

When I was a little child time seemed longer
When I was a little child time was not a matter to me
When I was a little child I wasted time
Time was play-time
Time was toy-time
I couldn't tell the time

3              War

The bomb fell in the night: we had an Anderson shelter in our garden so we used to sleep in there. And it knocked all our
doors off and everything. And I remember going round Exmouth Street, and all the bodies were laid out on the pavement
where the air-raid wardens had brought them out. That did frighten me.

Oh, I don't want to go through that again. I don't think we will, will we? We'll just go in one big bang.

4              Youth

It wasn't serious like now, it wasn't a serious life, was it? Well, we used to have a lot of fun... mind you, people were
more... they were cheerful, people, they weren't like it now, they're not like it now... there was all rationed with our...
we used to enjoy ourself... get one egg a week...

I thought it was horrible – that wasn't a kiss, he wanted to eat you, I think it was horrible. [Laughter] And then they
went with you about six month before they kissed you didn't they? Went with'em for years didn't you, before you got
engaged, you had to. You had to get engaged first. You had to get a Woolworths ring for 6d. [Laughter] I got a good
hiding the first time I brought one home. She didn't like him, my mother. Very strict, my mother. 9 o'clock at night you
had to be in... mustn't stay out too long... otherwise your father was at the door waiting for you. Oo, I can't remember.
[Laughter]

You don't want to get married because you're enjoying life so much. Nowadays they seem to want to get married more,
but we had such fun when we were young, we didn't want to – I didn't want to get married. All I wanted was babies.
I loved babies.

5              Death

I do think a lot about people who's gone. My mum's always with me. My mum – I don't know if anyone else thinks
their mum was their world, but I did. [Yeh, I do.] I thought my mum was my world, when she died it was the
finish of me. My mum in those days, was, you know, my friend; and... although, although she longed to die,
she was crippled up with arthritis and that, she always longed to die. And that was the only, the only feeling I had,
that she was out of all her misery, but it was still sad. You know, I knew she wasn't in any pain any more, but...
and I felt selfish mourning for her. I do still miss her, I miss talking to her. I think she looks after me, I think she
talks to me. I don't know what she says, but I think she's looking after me. I always say hello mum as I go in the
door. I always feel that she's there. I do still miss her.

6              Time

[No text]

7              World

Well, like, lonely you know. I got a nephew living upstairs where I am. He lives on his own. Sandy, ennit? He comes
over here to dinner. Then I've got a niece at Cambridge, that's all. Sarah, mary, Alice, Phyllis, Violet, Rhoda, Molly,
mine, mine's Cathleen (they call me Kit for short) and Ivy. And me brothers was Jim and Will.

When I was a little child time seemed longer
When I was a little child time was not a matter to me
When I was a little child I wasted time
Time was play-time
Time was toy-time
I couldn't tell the time

– I am 84
– My grandmother's 93 today
– How old are you?
– 80. Eight-oh
– Well, it's your birthday Sunday
– Well it's gone
– Oh Gawd
– It's gone now...   [conversation fades]

 

Recorded in front of a live audience at BBC Maida Vale Studio 1, London, 2000.

These texts, the music and the recording are covered by copyright.