On leaving the College, Britten was determined at all costs to make his living as a professional composer. To this end he began to write incidental music for the GPO Film Unit (whose reputation for experimentation was second to none), as well as for small theatre companies such as the Group and Left Theatres, and for BBC radio. In 1936 Britten and the poet W H Auden, also briefly employed at the Film Unit, collaborated on Night Mail
, probably the most celebrated of all 1930s documentary films. It tells the story of the special postal express train collecting, sorting and delivering mail as it travels overnight from London to Glasgow. One of Britten’s and Auden’s most striking contributions to the film comes in the famous end sequence, with its remarkable synthesis of potent visual images, Auden’s text (a kind of patter spoken in strict rhythm with the music) and Britten’s brilliantly conceived score.
from notes by Philip Reed © 1996