Study of the Object

For voices (SATB)


From the opening of Study of the Object

I discovered the poem Study of the Object by the Polish poet Zbigniew Herbert as a teenager and have over the years set its words several times. It continues to lay a curious spell on my imagination and recently I’ve become to understand its oblique and ironic world more fully and completely.

Hence a further version. This choral setting forms the basis of a larger and further work (of the same title) for a variable ensemble of voices and instruments composed as a companion piece to Metanoia for variable ensemble composed in 1988.

Herbert and the first edition of Study of the Object.

Zbigniew Herbert (1924 – 1998) is now regarded as one of the foremost poets of his generation. His champions have included the Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney whose commemorative lecture and reading of 2009 can be found on YouTube. Herbert’s poetry often uses Latin and Greek mythology and is full of flights of the imagination that only words can engender. Study of the Object is one of his most well-known poems in English and the translation used here is by Czeslaw Milorz and Peter Dale Scott.

The poem is in six parts that are set and to be performed as a continuous work. Composed in the spirit of Metanoia it has a particular simplicity of vocal organisation. The music is predominantly homophonic with a tonal centre on the pitch B throughout. Although a rehearsal part for keyboard is provided the composer would prefer any accompaniment of this version to be created from the vocal parts themselves, and as freely as possible.

From the final bars of Study of the Object .

The work is, as with Metanoia, written with student performers in mind who are encouraged to make the work their own through an imaginative response to orchestration and choral arrangements. With the latter sections, indeed movements, may be scored for a group of soloists or semi chorus. Tempo, dynamics, articulations and expressive markings should be considered as a guide, no more.

Study of the Object is written for and dedicated to the students of the Norfolk County Youth Orchestra and
Choir and the Norwich Students Orchestra with whom the composed worked between 1986 and 1988 creating two major works Skyscapes for instrumental soloists, choir, and orchestra with computer, and
Metanoia for variable ensemble.



Study of the Object full score [pdf]