for chamber ensemble
I'm in the process of preparing a new edition of this piece.
Morphic Verse is inspired by Byrd's setting of Why do I use my paper, ink and pen?. The original text is attributed to Henry Walpole who wrote it having borne witness to the execution of Edmund Campion, a martyr. The incident motivated Walpole to reconcile with the church.
The poem spans thirty stanzas and is at times highly seditious; an early attempt to print it—by Stephen Vallenger in 1582—resulted in imprisonment and, eventually, death. It's no surprise, then, that Byrd published only the first verse with his setting in Psalmes, Sonets & Songs (1588). Of course, the regular verse would permit any number of stanzas to be sung.
Byrd's composition is unusual in its setting of a mood rather than a text. The music's complex sentiment is not easy to verbalise.
In my setting, quotations of the Byrd surface throughout with decreasing frequency as the music finds its own voice.
I wrote this piece in Cambridge when I was an undergraduate; it was in no small way motivated by its dedicatee, my friend, Iain Fenlon.