Surrealist Landscape

Counter-tenor [or mezzo], piano and tape playback (or two voices) (1973) 

Text: Lord Berners

Surrealist Landscape is a composite work during which a little song, On the Pale Yellow Sands, to a poem by Lord Berners (1883-1950), is played back two or three times, along with piano chords and vocal melismas, either on tape or with two performers, and freely superimposed as a live performance. This can also be done in a recording. The poem was dedicated to Salvador Dali around the time of his visit to London for the International Surrealist Exhibition in 1936.

When I went through Berners’ manuscripts in 1972, I had noticed that his song ‘Red Roses and Red Noses’ was designated as Nonsense Song No. 1. Since he had not set ‘On the Pale Yellow Sands’ to music, I imagined that I was writing his second Nonsense Song for him in his style and I wrote it on manuscript paper that had belonged to him.

The premiere of Surrealist Landscape was given by David Ross (counter-tenor), who commissioned it, and Ingrid Surgenor (piano), at the Purcell Room on 8 November 1973. The first broadcast was by Meriel Dickinson and the composer on 27 July 1979.

Our recording of Surrealist Landscape, expertly engineered by Bob Auger in a single take, came out on Dreamscapes, Unicorn-Kanchana [LP, 1981; DKP(CD)09093,1990]; then on Songcycles, Albany [TROY 365, 2000]; then on British Song [Heritage HTGCD 249, 2012].


© 2008-24 Estate of Peter Dickinson