Benjamin Britten's music for The Ascent of F6, a play by Auden and Isherwood


The British composer Benjamin Britten wrote the incidental music for W H Auden and Christopher’s Isherwood’s play The Ascent of F6. This manuscript fragment shows the music Britten composed for Auden’s song ‘Funeral Blues’, better known by its first line ‘Stop all the clocks’.

Auden and Britten, a creative partnership

Auden first met Britten in 1935 at the General Post Office Film Unit, where he was a full-time employee writing poetic commentary for the GPO’s documentary films. Britten, then only 22 and a recent graduate, was hired to compose music for the documentaries, and both men worked together on the films Coal Face (1935) and Night Mail (1936). They also became involved with the productions of the Group Theatre during the 1930s, and collaborated in the plays The Ascent of F6 and On the Frontier. In 1939 Auden began working on the libretto for Britten’s operetta Paul Bunyan, based on a legendary American folk character.

Full title:
Benjamin Britten: Incidental music for The Ascent of F6
Music / Manuscript
Benjamin Britten, W H Auden,
Usage terms

Benjamin Britten: © Britten-Pears Foundation, Aldeburgh. Published under a Creative Commons Non-Commercial Licence.

© Reproduced by permission of Boosey & Hawkes Music Publishers Ltd. Published under a Creative Commons Non-Commercial Licence.

W H Auden: © Copyright by the Estate of W. H. Auden. You may not use the material for commercial purposes. Please credit the copyright holder when reusing this work.

Christopher Isherwood: Copyright © Katherine Bucknell and Don Bachardy 2012, used by permission of The Wylie Agency (UK) Limited. Except as otherwise permitted by your national copyright laws this material may not be copied or distributed further.

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British Library
Add MS 60622

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An introduction to 'Stop all the clocks'

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'Funeral Blues', also known as 'Stop all the Clocks', is perhaps now most famous for its recitation in the film Four Weddings and a Funeral, but its first audience encountered it as part of a play. Seamus Perry discusses the poem and its place in The Ascent of F6, co-authored by W H Auden and Christopher Isherwood.

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