Minutes of lives

Minutes of Lives (1982)

first performance: March 11-1984, Museum Boymans van Beuningen, Rotterdam
Djoke Winkler Prins – soprano
The Nederlands Klarinetkwartet consisting of Jan Janssen, Marten Hemminga,
Kees Vos and Henri Bok (bass clarinet)

‘I try to preserve as much as possible for future generations. It is not up to me to decide what is important or not!’ a quote of the English author John Aubrey (1625-1697). To his dying days he made notes of everything that seemed to be worth remembering. His attention was particularly focused on the vicissitudes of the famous. He wrote everything down, from the most superficial to the most profound, from hard facts to downright gossip, fifty big manuscripts filled to the last page.
Nothing was published during his life. He had no time to prepare something for the press. The only
thing he managed to do was coming up with a title, Minutes of Lives. Hopefully, my composition with the same title may produce some order out of Aubrey’s chaos?
There are 12 movements: an introduction, 5 interludes and 6 songs.The introduction and the interludes (spoken) are, as far as the notes are concerned, closely related. They are about  Aubrey himself. The songs (sung) are, as far as the notes are concerned, independent from each other and deal with the lives of famous contemporaries of Aubrey.

For the first time a system is used that from then on will play an important role in nearly all compositions by Jacques Bank.The starting-point is a mode of only six tones. Then, six times a tone of this mode is discarded and replaced by a new one. So, in the end, all twelve tones of the chromatic scale will at least once have been part of the mode, on which the music is based.

Minutes of Lives can be seen on YouTube in its entirety. The beautiful images are by the video artist Kees Vos.


Considering therefore that if I should not finish and publish what I had begun (My papers might either perish, or be sold in an Auction, and some body else – as is not uncommon – put his name to my Paines): and not knowing any one that would undertake this Design whilst I live, I have tumultuarily stitcht up what I have many yeares since collected: I hope, hereafter it may be an Incitement to some Ingeniose and publick-spirited young Man, to polish and compleat, what I have delivered rough hewen: For I have no leisure to heighten my Stile.

Song 1 – The Lady Jordan
The Lady Jordan being at Cirencester, when it was besieged (Anno aetatis 75) was so terrified with the Shooting, that her understanding was so spoyled, that She became a tiny–child, that they made Babies for her to play withall.

Interlude 1
If Solomon counts the day of ones death better than the day of ones birth, there can be no Objection why that also may not be reckoned amongst ones Remarkable and Happy days.

Song 2 – Thomas Goffe
His Wife pretended to fall in Love with him, by hearing him preach: Upon Which, said one Thomas Thimble to him: Do not marry her: if thou dost, she will break thy Heart. He was not obsequious to this Advice, but for her Sake altered his Condition, and cast Anchor here. ‘Twas no long Time before this Xantippe made Mr Thimble’s Predictions good: and when he died, the last Words he spake were: Oracle, Oracle, Tom Thimble, and so he gave up the Ghost.

Interlude 2
Now these Arcana are not fitt to lett flie abroad, till about 30 yeares hence, for the author and the Persons (like Medlars) ought to be rotten first.

Song 3 – Eleanor Radcliffe, Countess of Sussex
Countess of Sussex, a great and sad example of the power of Lust and Slavery of it. She was a great a beautie as any in England, and had a good Witt. After her Lord’s death (he was jealous) she sends for one (formerly her Footman) and makes him groom of the chamber. He had the Pox and shee knew it: a damnable Sott. He waz not very handsom, but his body of exquisite shape (hinc sagittae). His Nostrils were stufft and borne out with corkes in which were quills to breath through. About 1666 this Countesse dyed of the Pox.

Interlude 3
I here lay-downe to you nothing but the trueth: the naked and plaine trueth, which is exposed so bare that the very pudenda are not covered, and affords many passages that would raise a Blush in a young Virgin’s cheeke.

Song 4 – sir Walter Raleigh
He loved a wench well: and one time getting up one of the Mayds of Honour up against a tree in a wood (’twas his first Lady) who seemed at first boarding to be something fearfull of her Honour, and modest, she cryed, sweet Sir Walter, what doe you me ask; Will you undoe me? Nay, sweet Sir Walter! Sweet Sir Walter! Sir Walter! At last , as the danger and the pleasure at the same time grew higher, she cryed in the extasy, Swisser Swatter Swisser Swatter. She proved with child, and I doubt not but this Hero tooke care of them both, as also that the Product was more than an ordinary mortal.

Interlude 4
Plankes and lighter thinges swimme and are preserved, where the more weighty sinke and are lost. By my meanes many Antiquities have been reskued and preserved.

Song 5 – Mr Rushworth
Yesterday I saw Mr Rushworth, which was a great mortification. He hath quite lost his memory with drinking Brandy: remembered nothing of you etcetera. His Landlady wiped his nose like a child. He was about 83, onwards to 84. He had forgot his children before he died.

Interlude 5
The retriving if these forgotten Things from Oblivion in some sort resembles the Art of a Conjuror, who makes those walke and appeare that have layen in their grave many hundred of yeares.

Song 6 – sir Thomas More
After he was beheaded, his trunke was interred in Chelsey church, neer the middle of the South wall, where was some slight Monument erected. His head was upon London bridge. There goed this story in the family, viz that one day as one of his daughters was passing under the Bridge, looking on her father’s head, sayd she, That head haz layn many a time in my Lapp, would to God it would fall into my Lap as I passe under. She had her wish, and it did fall into her Lappe, and is now preserved in a vault in the Cathedral Church at Canterbury.