Music for a While

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Oedipus, title page of the play

Music for a While is a song for solo alto by the English Baroque composer Henry Purcell. 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. It was composed for a revival of the work in 1692.[1]


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 piece exists in multiple arrangements, including for solo keyboard and violin and keyboard. Music for a While is the title of an album of Purcell arrangements released in 2014 by Christina Pluhar.[3]


The text is

"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.


The piece was published posthumously in Orpheus Britannicus.


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. ^ The Ashgate Research Companion to Henry Purcell
  2. ^ North, Nigel (1987). Continuo playing on the lute, archlute, and theorbo. Indiana University Press. p. 264. ISBN 0253314151. 
  3. ^ Kemp, L. "Music for a while: Improvisations on Henry Purcell". Gramophone. Retrieved 2017-12-10. 
  4. ^ Wigmore. "Icon: Alfred Deller". Gramophone. Retrieved 2017-12-09. 
  5. ^ EMFAQ

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