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The text of the Self-Laudatory Hymn came to light while I was browsing among the bookshelves of an Armenian acquaintance in February 1992. Opening, for no apparent reason, a fat anthology entitled Ancient Near-Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, edited by James B Pritchard, I found S N Kramer’s translation of this Hymn. I was immediately taken with its tone of unashamed self-congratulation (very suitable, I thought, for James Bowman’s voice) and its repetitive structure (very suitable for my music).
In conversation with another friend I learned that Inanna was not an obscure goddess known only to me and a few experts on Sumerian civilization, but a central focus of that civilization and a figure highly esteemed by feminists. In Kramer’s works: ‘Female deities were worshipped and adored all though Sumerian history…but the goddess who outweighed, overshadowed, and outlasted them all was a deity know to the Sumerians by the name of Inanna, ‘Queen of Heaven’, and to the Semites who lived in Sumer by the name of Ishtar. Inanna played a greater role in myth, epic, and hymn than any other deity, male or female.’
In the Self-Laudatory Hymn I have made no attempt to evoke Sumerian music (or music of any other period). The opportunity to work with the viols of Fretwork recalls my use of early instruments in the first Michael Nyman Band, which uses rebecs rather than viols; and also my studies in the 1960s with Thurston Dart (and his memorable Musica Britannica edition of Jacobean consort music) and the finest book ever written on English music, English Chamber Music by E H Meyer.
from notes by Richard Boothby © 2019