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Dance the Beginning of the World

For piano trio

Composition Date: 2017

Instrumentation: Vln, Vc, Pf



Commissioned by Malvern Concert Club, with funds from the Kay Trust.

First performed by Trio Apaches at Malvern Theatres on 21 September 2017.

Programme Note:


for the Trio Apaches






The title of this piece comes from the 16th century play The Atheist's Tragedy by Cyril Tourneur, and is a response to a request from pianist Ashley Wass that I would connect the trio in some way to Milton's Paradise Lost.

I was interested in the Miltonic view of Adam and Eve, Eden, and a lost harmonious paradise, contrasted with Darwin's theory of evolution, where nature is 'red in tooth and claw'. However, Darwin revered Milton, and throughout his journey on HMS Beagle he carried a dog-eared copy of Paradise Lost in his pocket.

Each movement, or dance, represents part of the evolutionary process: the first a raw chaos; the second, the first stirrings of life deep in the ocean*, using material inspired by traditional Persian music. The third movement begins with the first forays of living organisms from the sea onto the land, developing into an 'aerial view' of herds of species stampeding across a rapidly burgeoning landscape - here the rhythms are derived from African drumming.

With the fourth dance comes the advent of Man – 'fabrications' referring not so much to the building of civilisation, as to the creation of narratives and belief systems to explain the complex world about us. The movement is a gentle set of variations on a Hawaiian 'creation myth' chant.

The final movement is a disintegration – the inevitable end of man, of mankind – but probably not of the planet itself. It is a palindromic 'mirror image' of the opening movement, during which faint echoes of the three central dances are heard.

I would like to acknowledge the input of writers Tim Pearce and Peter Thomson in the creation of this piece; their research has given me a fascinating insight into our struggle to understand the universe.

Dance the Beginning of the World was premiered by Trio Apaches at Malvern Theatres on 21 September 2017. It was commissioned by Malvern Concert Club, with funds from the Kay Trust, in memory of Kathy and Margaret Kay.

* Genesis 1:20: And God said: ‘Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures'

Sally Beamish 2017


Available Recordings:

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