"et nous les os" is a fragment of text from the poem Ballade des pendus by François Villon, from c.1489. This ballad reports, on the face of it, the dying pleas of men dying at the gallows and describes how their bodies will soon be eaten by birds and then decay, and includes the line and we, the bones, become ashes and powder..., which in the original 15th century French (et nous les os, devenons cendre et pouldre...) gives this work its title.
The poem can be read in a broader sense than the literal narrative. Perhaps Villon is comparing all mortal men living and dying on Earth to those sentenced to die and then disappear slowly on the gallows; nature herself the eternal presence while the works of mankind rise and fall. This is the sense in which I have read the poem, and in the spirit of which I have written this music.
et nous les os is intended to be performed by the left hand alone, and was written for the pianist Nicholas McCarthy.
Piano (left hand)
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