Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra- A Poetic Response

Saturday 13th January was my first experience of the London Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Sir Simon Rattle. One thing and another sadly prevented me from hearing the first half of the concert’s Genesis Suite, but luckily arrived in time to hear the incomparable Concerto for Orchestra by the Hungarian composer Bela Bartok.

I had the idea of a sort of live poetry stream as the concert was running. Although we were in almost complete darkness, I set about this challenge, jotting ideas in my notebook and couldn’t believe how natural it felt. The concert began with a reading of a letter Bartok wrote to his friend whilst writing the concerto. The letter talked in great detail about how much the natural imagery surrounding him inspired the writing of the piece. We were also prompted by a back- drop of nature scenes, each refleting a movement of the concerto.

The orchestra were so detailed and expressive in their use of colours. Each member knew their role and were frequently given clear direction and artistic inspiration from Rattle. He struck me as the work’s true soloist and was indefatigable in his commitment, charm and love towards both music and orchestra.

The poem beneath is a totally unedited version of what I wrote as the music was playing. It was so tempting to edit it as I was typing it up, but I felt it important to stay true to the words that came to me in the moment. This new style of poetry has never felt so natural, this down foremost to the orchestra’s poetic excellence!



Painting by Philippa Butterworth


The mist is sort of solid

It’s humming a cheerful tune

Laden with discontented discords

The mist clears to expose

Such a raw urgency, a coarse tension

Imagery of such hills as these pushes

My vast imagination further-

A blanket of interweaving paths

None quite explored, and yet cheerfully


To be shown either side of a peace,

A deep sleep encircled with pungent colour

And warm horizons slowly encroaching


This clan chuckles

In thirds, a joyful good morning

A mockery of our silent peacefulness

Some stark hunger to provoke this

Creeping, a hide and seek

Where’s my laughter faded to

Once upheld by strong sun stokes


Mischief in pairs

One, two, three to brighten

Our dreary winters


Seasons, both heavy and light

Inhabit the clearings in our conscious mind

An elegy for those swimming in grief

Such as this

A deep hole of loss, a pool of tears

Need never be understood-

Too close for comfort

These variants on love and death

A memory kept alive through shortness of time

The fear is greeted with a shaft of sweetened light

The darkness is softened, knelled in our joy’s

Raging sun


Images of meadows etcet. Etcet.

Is this all too obvious?


It feels so genuine!

Oh blow,

Let’s sit another hour

This love is so bright and blooming

And it intercepts our longing for



Great swathes of energy

Hurl us towards this huge beacon

Stinging, reaching

Energy to fill intensities of sorrow,

A persistent murmur of peace.

Here sits the contemplative

A rising joy, that these days have strengthened

In their outbursts they raise us up to Him.


Hattie Butterworth


Our World From Up Here

Our world from up here

Vast scenes below then hypnotic

Sunsets far and wide

And warm until memories 

Like a canal flow gliding

Open to us and run free- 

Alive in the clouds but 

Below the moon still 

Glowing black like darkened

Emotion pouring to heal

And your voice to seal 

Echoed cries from their booming

Our Streets

I encountered more people

With faces, sunken

Cut through with a cold stone blade

Blinked- then an opportunity missed

For here, now to give wider

No eyes to see change

Through skin so scaled and rusted

That your copper coin sticks fast

To make a golden impression to

Listen and answer the rattling

Of the links untied through neglect

One by one to convince them

That the world’s hope is to dust

And passers by are too busy to give a thought to change a

World’s eye view


Through a hole in the wall

They now can see the flowers

In the gardens we dance

Striving for wilting dandelions find

Peace of mind to sing of love

We- the deaf who walk close each time

To the silent hum of our eye lined bubble because

You don’t want to know, and you don’t have to

Play- pretend sublimity, oblivious fun

You are the most through dust on the ground

The creaking-jointed human

Kind of the broken wanderer

Who need us as we are and ask for

No more.




Etched emotion opened

A basic can opener

some tainted past

Revealed, oppressed depressed

Stark compression released, deceased

Speaking to break the silence, altered

Alive not alone

Far from the floor

But escaping the lifeless lies through a stiffening door

Glass Half Gone

The World demands your deliberate artifice

But right in the now and hear

You’re Walking alone, along a lonely
Love burnt grey and dust of stars

Streaming ankle level and below

Beneath and between your fears own me
Dawn cracking down on a darkened day

Alive about a sunbeam, once in May

Living a lie, a dream, still lonely
Shipwrecked amongst the living

A breathing hollow and lifeless laughter

Piercing a cry of cold limbs, only
Ended right at the beginning

From A blackened senseless lying

And a deadened deafness, a restless dying

Music, Philosophy and Jeanette Winterson


For Christamas this year, I bought Jeanette Winterson’s semi-autobiography, Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit, for my pianist friend, Jasmin. I thought I would interest Jasmin because of Jeanette’s inspirational story and her connections with Oxford, (Jasmin is awaiting a response from her Hartford interview!) and so it did. So much so in fact that Jasmin forced me down and said, “Hattie, read the introduction to this book, it will change you”. I read the introduction and it was certainly enough to feed inspiration for a blog post!

I’m not going to provide a very in depth discussion around one of Jeanette’s many philosophy’s, only talk about one thing she said that has stayed with me. Jeanette talked about how she doesn’t want to call Oranges an autobiography because she used her own life only as the base for a story. A story, she said, which she hopes can turn her own life into something which has meaning for other people whose experience is ‘Nothing like your own’. What struck me the most was the idea that ‘Memory is not a reconstruction or a filing system, memory is a recreation’. She talks about how we remember the same things differently each time and how the past is not fixed and as we develop and change, so do our memories.

It suddenly stuck me that this idea is vital in understanding and performing a piece of music. Our ultimate goal in performance is to perform as we can imagine the composer would have designed it. Every cellist who puts their heart into the Elgar concerto will get very different responses back. We need to remember that these great works are memories. For example, many people see the cello concerto as a memory of the war or tribute to his wife, Alice. So often musicians get tied down in looking for an ultimate perfection in performance. We need to remember that each and every one of us has something to give back and every musician has the beautiful chance to retell and sell a memory. Perhaps the more successful performers aren’t necessarily the ones who have the natural talent, but the ones who have imagined a memory and found the most exciting, expressive way to communicate it. Just as we cannot remember a memory perfectly and constantly unchanged, why should we be expected to perform a memory in this way?

Jeanette, we love you and thank you dearly for bringing us back to life!

Keep on creating everyone, never shy away!




Finding Home 


 If the home was just a memory that you touched once upon a dream
And even the stars’ brightness faded the closer to them you passed

Where could you lay the foundations of your heart?
If yet you received the greatest riches and witnessed the sweetest music

If you could part the waves and conjure the snowfall 

Where would the core of your heart cry back to?
If you reach the bottom of the ocean or fly beyond the highest mountains 

You must still make a home for your love and a life for your happiness 

But an armchair for the lost wanderer and a fire for his soul.

Hattie Butterworth

Waiting For Love- Poems for presents

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I didn’t mind

But Waiting for love

Was like waiting for a dream to come

To fly by and take me to a world afar

Where love was the waterfall and I was the reflection

I was shown the life from my dreams in the river

A life where the moon kissed the stars

And the colours and smells of dreams

Were like the palette of watercolours

I chose from the art shop

Open to all who buy into them

But fashioned only by the couriers of the soul and the holders of a curious heart.

This love I touched in the dreams of the artists

The love I longed to hold forever.

But this passionless love preferred by the inhabitants of our Earth

I could not fully comprehend

I am myself an ariitst forced to confront the elements of an acceptable love

I must then wait for a fashioned love

A love that words describe in song and not in thought

I am not suited to the earthly love type of the Earth’s wanderers

My love is of a different place

It has further to travel but I have my lifetime to seek



The Flaw of Supremacy

If you only played the dream
And sang nothing but the love,

The spirit and the depths of the soul
If nothing mattered but the pleasure

And all you wrote rang in perfect harmony

What would you do in order to forget?
Plagued with the boundary of infinite joy

Would you live here with me as a human,

Or inhabit a parallel world as a distant star

What it feels like

  They told me 

Fly like a bird, they said all

Be like the sound you want to hear

Be like a sportsman, set the intention, precision

Then play like a dream and run like the wind

Sing you, sing like the moon, play as the risen lark


Dream like the artist who grew this art

Who painted their soul and drew the Gods

Of unknown lands far away

That are unlike, unloved, untouched

Until revealed


But a musician favours playing like anything but themselves

Because playing like is painting by numbers

Impressive, professional like but a replica of another soul



Let the simile fade with the blackened night

I played the moon, I played the birds

I sang the love and the death

Because I am also unlike any

None will play my moon again

But all shall feel like the thought of a silent unsung song yet to be played