David Bedford: The Way of Truth

David Bedford The Way of Truth
The Way of Truth

David Bedford: The Way of Truth

Year of composition:
1977/1978
Scored for:
for mixed choir and electronics
Composer:
David Bedford
Text author:
Parmenides
Translator:
Karl Popper
Choir:
SATB
Duration:
20’
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Work introduction

The Way of Truth

The text is selected from the writings of Parmenides, the pre-Socratic philosopher who flourished in the 5th century B.C. The soprano and bass sing the Greek text while the Alto and Tenor sing an English translation. In his poem The Way of Truth Parmenides proceeds by the sole use of reason, unaided by the senses, to deduce all that can be known about “Being”, and he concludes by denying any truthful validity to the senses or any reality to what they appear to perceive. This leads him to postulate a “block” universe, or “plenum”, in which coming-to-be, passing-away and change of any sort are impossible. For the first 4 lines (Fragment 16) I have used Sir Karl Popper’s translation from his “Conjectures and Refutations” (1972 edition, p. 165). I am grateful to Sir Karl for his permission to use this translation. The English version of the remainder is my responsibility and is better described as a paraphrase rather than a translation. Most previous translations have been literal word for word translations and since Parmenides was forced to use old – often Homeric – words for new philosophical concepts, literal translations are often rather obscure. I have attempted therefore to make a paraphrase/translation which makes the meaning clear (and is also singable).

In considering musical settings of writings by the Pre-Socratic philosophers, the obvious choice would seem to be Heracleitus, with his doctrine of constant change. His idea that everything turns into its opposite seems particularly well suited to some kind of musical analogue.

It is for this reason that, as a challenge, I have selected some of the writings of Parmenides, whose teachings are almost exactly the opposite of those of Heracleitus. It would seem almost impossible to find a musical analogue for his totally unchanging Universe since the logical solution would be to have a piece of music in which absolutely nothing happens. I have tried, therefore, to conjure up a feeling of activity and timelessness, but at the same time to keep the musical argument moving.

David Bedford

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