Music for a While

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Oedipus, title page of the play

"Music for a While" is a da capo aria for voice (usually soprano or tenor), harpsichord and bass viol by the English Baroque composer Henry Purcell.

Based on a repeating ground bass pattern, it is the second of four movements from his incidental music (Z 583) to Oedipus, a version of Sophocles' play by John Dryden and Nathaniel Lee, published in 1679. It was composed for a revival of the work in 1692.[1] The aria was published posthumously in Orpheus Britannicus, book 2, 1702.


The voice is accompanied by an instrumental part featuring an ascending ground bass. Additional harmonies would have been supplied by the musicians playing continuo.[2] The continuo part in this piece is only three bars long instead of the traditional four.


Music for a while
Shall all your cares beguile.

Wond'ring how your pains were eas'd
And disdaining to be pleas'd
Till Alecto free the dead
From their eternal bands,
Till the snakes drop from her head,
And the whip from out her hands.

Music for a while
Shall all your cares beguile.

The text is part of a longer musical interlude in act 3, scene 1 of Oedipus.[3]


The song is identified with Alfred Deller, the first modern countertenor.[4] He seems to have first recorded it in the 1940s.[5] It also appeared in an extended play compilation in the 1950s.


  1. ^ Rebecca Herissone, ed. (2013). The Ashgate Research Companion to Henry Purcell. Ashgate Publishing. p. [page needed]. ISBN 9781409495543.
  2. ^ North, Nigel (1987). Continuo playing on the lute, archlute, and theorbo. Indiana University Press. p. 264. ISBN 0253314151.
  3. ^ John Dryden, Nathaniel Lee: Oedipus: A Tragedy, London, 1727, pp. 50–51
  4. ^ Wigmore, Richard (27 March 2017). "Icon: Alfred Deller". Gramophone. Retrieved 13 May 2020.
  5. ^ Pierre-F. Roberge. "Alfred Deller (1912–1979) – A discography". Archived from the original on 2011-12-03. Retrieved 2017-12-09.

External links[edit]