Old Euclid

Euclid is a short poem by Nicholas Vachel Lindsay (1879 – 1931,) an American poet considered to be a founder of modern singing poetry, in which verses are meant to be sung or chanted.

The reason for such a child-like setting of Lindsay’s poem becomes clear as we reach its last four lines, where it becomes apparent that the music is trying to convey a child’s experience of Euclid’s geometry. Throughout the setting, gently circling gestures in both marimba and voice describe the circle itself; the repeating, pentatonic vocal line reflects the innocence of the child’s vision.


Old Euclid drew a circle

On a sand-beach long ago.
He bounded and enclosed it
With angles thus and so.
His set of solemn greybeards
Nodded and argued much
Of arc and circumference,
Diameter and such.
A silent child stood by them
From morning until noon
Because they drew such charming

Round pictures of the moon.

By Vachel Lindsay

Jonathan Brigg
(born November 22nd 1984) is a composer and music teacher. His music betrays a wide range of influences, though he is particularly drawn to American Experimental composers, Dutch postminimalists, and jazz. Recent works include String Quartet No. 1: “Katabasis” for the Animato Quartet, Sinful Sinfonies for the London Philharmonic Orchestra/Foyle Future Firsts and Old Euclid for PercusSing Duo. He is currently completing a second quartet for the Animato and a new work for Orkest de Ereprijs.

Jon has recently been awarded a place on the Young Composers programme with the London Philharmonic Orchestra (2015-16), and a six week residency at the MacDowell Colony, USA. He was a finalist in Britten Sinfonia Opus 2013. In 2015 Jon was awarded second prize at the YCM (Young Composers Meeting) in Apeldoorn, Netherlands. His teachers include Kevin Malone, John Casken and William Brooks.


Photo credit Benjamin Ealovega