Hornpipe/ Edith Sitwell

"Lady Venus on the settee of the horsehair sea!"


In 1922, Edith Sitwell recited her poems from behind a painted curtain through a very loud megaphone made of papier mache, accompanied by music composed by William Walton. This was the first performance of Facade, in Sitwell's Chelsea home. The megaphone amplified her voice over the sounds of the orchestra (which was further 'dampened' by the curtain barrier). The suite of 16 poems was a virtuosic display of rhyme and rhythm, speed and pattern; each piece a gem of stylisation and parody, on different cultural styles of music (including Scottish, Italian, Spanish, and military).

This human gramophone's performance alternated between Hornpipe and Black Mrs Behemoth from Facade.

Sources for the performance included:

H4096/2 Drivel they paid to hear - Conductor Guy Woolfenden tells the story of Walton and Sitwell's Facade.

V5239/2 Music in Camera - a BBC recreation of Facade in 1987 featuring Kathryn Hunter.