Projects

Names of the Dead

  • Project: Names of the Dead

A note from Tom Morris:

In June 2003 I asked Steve McNeff to set to music the names of the dead from the Iraq war. The aim was to retrieve some of the cold statistics of the conflict and set them in a context that remembered their humanity; to create a musical memorial for the war dead, civilian and military.

In attempting to understand a political decision to go to war, one can enter a very strange world in which morality is constantly modified by numbers. After the Vietnam war, it was said that the maximum number of fatalities the US public would bear from a foreign war was 18. The relative scale of suffering in any war incident seems to be measured in media inches by the number of people killed. The numbers of dead in one war or incident are held in balance with the numbers of dead in another.

One response is to retreat to the humblest, most functional realm of activity – simply, and without judgement, to collect the names of the dead. Many websites and other agencies are already doing this. Some do so patiently, others furiously. The libretto for Names of the Dead is collected from some of these sources. A selection of the names has been assembled in the order in which we found them. Grouped according to source, each source is accorded a separate movement in the composition.

Since this piece was last performed in September 2003 we have augmented the score to try to embrace the greater number of casualties. An aim of the piece is that it will try to catalogue with each performance the increasing human loss. It will never be complete. Not only are the names of the dead hard to recover, it’s impossible to define when the war ended. For many – it is still being fought today.

Creative Team

Original idea from Tom Morris

Composed by Stephen McNeff

Directed by Mark Espiner

Performed by The Duke Quartet (Louisa Fuller, Sophie Harris, Rick Koster, and John Metcalfe) and Adey Grummet, Clare McCaldin, Mhairi Ellis and Rebecca Lodge (of Curate’s Egg)

Design by Mark Anstee

Lighting by Guy Hoare

Production managed by Phil Hewitt

Libretto compiled by Kate McGrath

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