Friday, 22 November 2013

Britten, Auden and Advertisements

Today is Benjamin Britten's one-hundredth birthday, which is much more important than words. Mind you, Britten was a very poetical composer. I even have an anthology (did you know that anthology means bouquet of flowers in Greek?) purely of poems that Britten set to music.

When Britten was sixteen he was ill at school and therefore confined to the sickroom. He took with him a copy of The Oxford Book of English Verse, that he had won as a school prize. They wouldn't allow him anything musical as that would only encourage him. So he ruled out staves on a sheet of blank paper and set a medieval poem to music.

In his diary he wrote "Write... "Hymn to the Virgin" & a set of variations (1/4 of it) for organ, which are rather rubbish - I rather like the hymn tho'."

They played it at his funeral.

Later on Britten got together with Auden and they wrote an advertising jingle together for the new-fangled telephone (the monopoly on which was owned by the Post Office). Here is what happens when two of the greatest geniuses of the C20th get into catchy advertising.

I love the rhyme of "Moscow" with "Phone kiosk-o".


  1. *won as a school prize ;)

  2. He drew a certain amount of inspiration from walking in the Suffok countryside around Aldeburgh where he made the Nightingale recording - here's a link to a recent BBC radio 4 doc tracing his footsteps from 50 years ago.

    Laurie -

  3. I always love getting together with Auden after a good funeral!