Songs from the End of the World

From Wind Repertory Project
John Mackey

John Mackey (text by A.E. Jacques)

General Info

Year: 2015
Duration: c. 20:20
Difficulty: (see Ratings for explanation)
Publisher: Osti Music
Cost: Score and Parts (print) - $495.00   |   Score Only (print) - $85.00


1. A Long Time Alone - 7:40
2. Raveling - 4:45
3. At Sea - 7:55


Full Score
Alto Flute (doubling on C flute)
English Horn
Bassoon I-II
B-flat Soprano Clarinet I-II
B-flat Bass Clarinet I-II
B-flat Contrabass Clarinet
String Bass
Percussion I-II-III, including:

  • Bass Drum
  • Marimba
  • Suspended Cymbal
  • Vibraphone


None discovered thus far.

Program Notes

The cycle is inspired by a passage in the Odyssey in which Odysseus, shipwrecked and near death, washes up on the shore of an island belonging to the nymph Kalypso. Homer’s telling treats the ensuing interlude as just another bit of exotic travelogue, one of many adventures on Odysseus’s long journey home; these three songs imagine what it meant to Kalypso herself, and are sung in her voice.

i. A long time alone. Kalypso’s island home is beautiful beyond imagining but remote beyond reach. Her immortality is thus an eternal solitude. The first song in the cycle, set before Odysseus’s arrival, is her lament of this loneliness. Standing on her shore, she remembers long-gone days when she could still delight in her paradise, and tells of the slow erosion of sensation and even sense after endless ages alone.

ii. Raveling. The second movement begins after Odysseus has been with Kalypso for seven years. She sings as she moves back and forth with a golden shuttle at her loom, weaving a tapestry -- the work of all that time -- that tells their story. At one end, the luminous threads show the near-dead castaway washed ashore; nearby the nymph nurses him back to health. Flowers and fruit, ripe and radiant, tumble through images of the love they found together. But the simple happiness of the scene and the song curdles: Odysseus wants to return to his home, leaving Kalypso to her solitude; nothing she has given or can give means anything to him anymore. She is shattered, but he is cold. So Kalypso returns to her loom, singing again, but now unraveling the tapestry, unmaking the document of love.

ii. At sea. In the final song, Kalypso watches Odysseus sail away on a boat she has given him, borne by a breeze she has called up to fill a sail she has fashioned from the unmade tapestry. Waves carry him toward the horizon, and her loneliness washes in again.

Again, alone. Again, forever. Solitude and I, once more, together.
And now—forget? Or yet remember? If I hold fast will I still surrender?
Shall I cling to memory, and polish thoughts like bright stones?
But every touch erodes them; to love their light is to lose it. Remembering.
Forget, then. Forget him. Forget him. Forget, yes.
And cast away the empty oyster shell. Tide take him.
But watch—who knows what waters wash home?
Forget him? Forget, how?
This cruel moon brings ghosts in waves now, to haunt me.
Too-cruel moon brings ghosts to haunt me, to taunt me now.
This tide that gives and takes and tolls the time, the time, the long andv longing time alone.
I can’t forget; I can’t remember. The loss remains, so hard, so tender.
And all my rhymes are ravings, my words the wailing of a lost one,
storm-tossed one.
The sea won’t hear. The sky won’t care. No different to them, my silence or song.
No words, so. Unheard, so. Why go on then? Why cry this silence?
Alone. Alone.
All cast away now. Just ghosts to stay now. Alone, all lost at sea.

- Program Note by A. E. Jaques

Commissioned by a group of 14 universities organized by the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, John R. Locke and Kevin Geraldi, directors.

- Program Note from score


  • Wladimir and Rhoda Lakond Award in Music from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, 2018, winner


State Ratings

None discovered thus far.


To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project

  • West Virginia University (Morgantown) Wind Symphony (Scott C. Tobias, conductor; Lisa Williamson, soprano) - 22 October 2023
  • San Francisco (Calif.) Conservatory of Music Wind Ensemble (Brad Hogarth, conductor; Rhoslyn Jones, soprano) - 1 April 2022
  • University of Michigan (Ann Arbor) Chamber Winds (Courtney Snyder, conductor) – 1 November 2019
  • Chesapeake Bay Wind Ensemble (Hampton, Va.) (William Garlette, conductor; Ellen Petko, soprano) – 8 March 2019
  • University of Texas (Austin) Wind Ensemble (Jerry Junkin, conductor; Hila Plitmann, soprano) – 30 November 2018
  • University of Alabama (Tuscaloosa) Wind Ensemble (Kenneth Ozzello, conductor) – 13 November 2018
  • Indiana University (Bloomington) Wind Ensemble (Rodney Dorsey, conductor; Jane Dutton, soprano) – 6 November 2018
  • Dallas (Tx.) Winds (Jerry Junkin, conductor; Hila Plitman, soprano) – 18 September 2018
  • University of North Carolina School of the Arts (Winston-Salem) Wind Ensemble (Mark Norman, conductor) – 5 April 2018
  • Nevada Wind Ensemble (Reno) (Reed Chamberlin, conductor; Megan Urbano, soprano) – 23 March 2018 (CBDNA 2018 Western/Northwestern Conference, Rohnert Park, Calif.)
  • Tulsa (Okla.) University Wind Ensemble (Richard Wagner, conductor; Abby Raiford, soprano) – 23 March 2018 (CBDNA 2018 Southwestern Conference, Houston, Texas)
  • Arizona State University (Tempe) Wind Orchestra (Gary W. Hill, conductor) – 19 September 2017
  • World Youth Wind Orchestra Project (Schladming, Aus.) (Kevin Sedatole, conductor; Hila Plittmann, soprano)– 16 July 2017
  • The Ohio State University (Columbus) Wind Symphony (Russel C. Mikkelson, conductor; Lindsay Kesselman, soprano) – 3 November 2016) – 3 November 2016
  • Michigan State University (East Lansing) Wind Symphony (Kevin L. Sedatole, conductor) – 29 September 2016
  • Western Michigan University (Kalamazoo) Symphonic Band (Scott Boerma, conductor; Lindsay Kesselman, soprano) – 27 February 2016 (CBDNA 2016 North Central Division Conference, Ames, Iowa)
  • University of North Carolina, Greensboro, Wind Ensemble (Kevin M. Geraldi, conductor conductor; Lindsay Kesselman, soprano) – 19 November 2015 – *Premiere Performance*

Works for Winds by This Composer

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