Remember me - echoes from the lost generations
George Butterworth
 

George Butterworth was born in London in 1885 to a privileged family. He went to Eton, then to university at Oxford. Already a talented composer, music became more and more important to him. Like his friend Vaughan-Williams, he loved to collect English folk songs.

At the outbreak of the First World War, he joined the Durham Light Infantry as a lieutenant in the 13th Battalion. During his year in the trenches, he was mentioned in despatches for outstanding courage, won the Military Cross for his defence of a trench that was later named after him, and led a raid during the Battle of the Somme. The raid was successful but Butterworth was killed by a sniper's bullet on August 5th 1916. His body was never recovered. He is commemorated on the memorial at Thiepval. His music captured the spirit of the English countryside that he fought for, and died to preserve.

 

George Butterworth


Your Turn!


1.

Listen to 'The Banks of Green Willow' written in 1913, just before the First World War. What sort of images does the music conjure up in your mind? Sketch them out, or write a description if you feel more comfortable. Listen again to the music and think about your images. Try to explain what it is in the music (specific instruments, changes in volume, speed, tone, key and so on) that makes you link the sound with the pictures you 'see'.


2.

The First World War was an important watershed in that it brought to an end many of the old traditional ways of life that had existed unchanged for centuries, particularly in rural communities. Many people lamented the passing of the old way of life and looked back fondly to what they saw as the days of innocence before the corrupting influence of the war. The classical music of this time tends to reflect that sentimentality, rather than communicating the horror of war and The Banks of Green Willow is no exception. The same was true of much of the literature written and the poet Edward Thomas was one of several poets of the war years who concentrated on the effect of the war on rural England. Thomas was killed in the First World War, by a shell blast on April 9th 1917.

Click here to read one of Edward Thomas' most famous poems

'As the Team's Head-Brass.'

How is the tone similar to that of Butterworth's work?


3.

Use the internet to conduct research into his life and work.

 
   
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