Prophecy by Numbers

Burnell, Paul

About the work

We seek understanding of our environment – our place in it – our futures. We try to shape our environment to aid our understanding. Increasingly, our environment – our fate – is understood as numbers: telephone numbers, stock market prices, lottery numbers, pin numbers, salaries, temperatures. We will try to control numbers; but this is futile – numbers will slip through our fingers like water. Nevertheless we will attempt to see our destiny in a series of numbers such as pi. Like alchemists we will try to bind numbers, to contain them, to frame them, to tune them, to bend them to our will. But numbers will always get away from us.

Technical notes

For flexible ensemble and voices. Guitars, recorders and electronic keyboards should be able to play. The introduction includes music for home-made instruments – straw reeds, cardboard boxes, elastic bands, bottle marimba (see score appendices for guidance). The notation between A-D is in three parts – bass, middle (a series of loud chords), top (more soloistic). It is possible for all these pitched instrumental material to be played on a single keyboard with two or three players. The voice material is notated within square structures and sung as 3-part rounds. There is also material for improvising solo voice.


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score & parts


Sample score



6m 00s




Voices and Instruments
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