Messages from the Dead

for Solo Bass, Heavy Metal Vocalist, 3 B♭ Clarinets and 2 Percussionists (2011)


This song cycle takes its text from the last words and suicide notes of three different people. The first uses the last words Vincent Van Gogh said to his brother before he shot himself. The second uses the suicide note from the attempted suicide of Dona Jenny Wiles, a friend of mine. The last uses the suicide note of gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson, who also shot himself.

In order to capture the anger that often goes with death, the song cycle includes a heavy metal vocalist. This use of vocalist also informs the choice of percussion, which is a deconstructed heavy metal drum kit.

Each note has been chosen for the individual's approach to suicide. Van Gogh's is the epitome of depression and final resignation. The second is a more apologetic approach for not being able to cope. Finally Hunter S. Thompson feels aggression towards his current situation of older age.


Premiered at the Cardiff University CMG Concert in 2012.

Second performance at ‘Stages of Death: Men, Women and Suffering in Opera and Ballet’ Symposium, hosted by the Cardiff University Centre for interdisciplinary research in opera.