JB: I wrote a book called the Identity of Man. I never saw the cover of the English edition until the book reached me in print. And yet the artist had understood exactly what was in my mind, by putting on the cover a drawing of the brain and the Mona Lisa, one on top of the other

Composing the Mask of Time by
Sir Michael Tippett

EARLY DURING THE GESTATION of the Mask of Time, I was deeply impressed by Jacob Bronowski's TV series The Ascent of Man and in due course I also read the book version. By his very reversal of the title of one of Darwin's books, The Descent of Man , Bronowski signalled an affirmation of faith in science which was as much a challenge to me as, say, that of a religious faith from the past; possibly even more so. For Bronowski's affirmation was not the blase acceptance of a status quo. It expressed the hard-won faith of someone who had lost many members of his family at Auschwitz. Indeed, for me, the most moving episode in the entire series occured when, standing at the pool of that horrendous prison camp, he confronted the perverted use of scientific achievement.

In some respects, the general conception of my work, and some of its detailed contents, owed something to Bronowski, but its thrust was rather different, reflecting my own sceptical, if not pessimistic, appreciation of what science can mean to us now.

Sir Michael Tippett (1905 - 1998) was an English composer. Among his best-known works are the oratorio A Child of Our Time, the orchestral Fantasia Concertante on a Theme of Corelli, and the opera The Midsummer Marriage.

Source: Tippett, Michael, 1995, Tippett on Music (Oxford: Oxford University Press), Edited by Meirion Bowen, p.247; p. 251, resp.

The Ascent of Jacob Bronowski

Copyright © 2000 by Stephen Moss. All rights reserved.