‘…how can that be wealth of which a man may have a great abundance and yet perish with hunger, like Midas in the fable, whose vain prayer turned everything that was set before him into gold?’
Aristotle: Politics (Book 1, Part IX)
Formed of two tableaux, Vain Prayer is a choreographic poem for orchestra after the Midas myth, the Greek legend of a King granted the wish that everything he might touch turn to gold. In particular, I’ve long-loved Nathaniel Hawthorne’s version, wherein Midas’ blinding and unquenchable thirst for ‘that precious metal’ leads, through fateful embrace, to his daughter’s transformation into a golden statue. His greatest sorrow and loss comes ‘in the fullness of all his gratified desires’, made more resonant by ‘the questioning look of love, grief, and pity, hardened into her face…the prettiest and most woeful sight that ever mortal saw.’
Vain Prayer was written as part of a Sound and Music/BBC SO 'Embedded' Composer Residency, and was premiered by the BBC Symphony Orchestra with conductor Pierre-Andre Valade on the 24th March 2016 at Maida Vale Studios.