Conquest of the Useless: Prologue (Silver are the tears of the moon)

Research output: Performances, compositions and other non-textual formsComposition



Prologue (Silver are the tears of the moon) constitutes the first part of a trilogy of pieces I am composing based on the diaries of the German film director Werner Herzog which he kept during the troubled production of his 1982 movie Fitzcarraldo and later published as the book Conquest of the Useless. The movie itself concerns the doomed efforts of a turn of the century rubber baron to build an opera house in the middle of the Peruvian jungle and the central, iconic image from the movie of a steamship being hauled over a mountain has been somehow translated here into a gigantic glissando, starting in the depths of the orchestra and slowly climbing. I wanted this piece to have all the grandeur and over-the-top emotions of a romantic opera overture and as I began to compose, that wish became more and more literally realised with snatches of Rigoletto writhing in the undegrowth accompanied high above by the “melancholy peeping” of tree-frogs.

Commissioned by BBC Radio 3 for the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and first performed by them, conducted by Ilan Volkov, on May 11, 2013, in Glasgow City Halls during the ‘Tectonics’ weekend.

This piece can be performed alone or as Part I of the trilogy ‘Conquest of the Useless’.


Original languageEnglish
PublisherUniversal Edition
Media of outputMusical Score
Publication statusPublished or Performed - 11 May 2013