Molly’s Song 3 - shades of crimson

(1996) / 8’

For Alto Flute, Viola and Steel-Stringed Guitar with 4 Radios and Music Box***

First performed 20 September 1997, De Markten, Brussels, by Ensemble Q-02


EP 7505 

Molly’s Song 3 belongs to a group of compositions (the under-side of green (1994), CRIMSON - Molly’s Song 1 (1995), Molly’s Song 2 - a shade of crimson (1995), Molly’s Song 3 - shades of crimson (1995/96)) that were influenced by Molly Bloom’s closing monologue in James Joyce’s Ulysses. This relentless and intense monologue flows unpunctuated for 35 pages:

…and O that awful deepdown torrent O and the sea the sea crimson sometimes like fire and the glorious sunsets and… yes…


Molly’s Song 3 seeks to sustain a musical energy strong enough to withstand the assaults of a succession of destructive events. In addition the composition was influenced by a quotation from Plato, describing how we perceive colour:

There is a swifter motion of a different sort of fire,

which strikes and dilates the ray of sight until it reaches the eyes,

forcing a way through their passages and melting them,

illiciting a union of fire and water which we call tears.

Being an opposite fire,

the inner fire flashes forth like lightening

and the outer fire finds a way in and is extinguished in the moisture

and all sorts of colours are generated in the mixture.


There is another sort of fire,

which reaches and mingles with the moisture of the eyes without flashing.

And in this the fire,

mingling with the ray of the moisture

produces a colour like blood,

to which we give the name of red.


Short extracts from Plato’s Timeaus (67e and 68a-d), translated by Benjamin Jowett, revised by order of the Jowett copyright trustees 1953, by permission of the Clarendon Press. Molly’s Song 3 was originally written incorporating this Plato text. I then chose to omit the text reducing the piece to a more abstract and intense version.

Both quotations refer to a particular colour red: crimson (or blood-red).