John B Hedges

composer & musician

Exeter Riddles (Book I) (2011)

for choir, harp & drum

Duration: 15'

Program Notes:

Exeter Riddles is a cycle of five riddles from the Exeter Book, one of the oldest existing anthologies of Anglo Saxon (or Old English) poetry which dates back to the 10th century. These enigmatic poems each represent an object, often from its own point of view, and the listener is left to guess at the object’s true identity. Though there is much debate about the answers to these riddles, I have titles each of these pieces with the possible answer I had in mind when writing the works.


I am greatly indebted to Dr. Dan Kempton of SUNY New Paltz. Without his initial translations and early coaching in the form and pronunciation of Anglo Saxon poetry, this work would have never been completed. In addition, I am grateful to Br. Adam McCoy from the Holy Cross Monastery in West Park, NY who provided translations and diction coaching for the first performance of the work. The work was premiered by the Kairos Consort in June of 2011 under the direction of Edward Lundergan.

Cycle includes:

I. Shield (with harp)
II. Bread Dough (women only)
III. Water (with harp)
IV. Bagpipe (with drum)
V. Iceberg (with harp)

A recording of the complete work is available here.

Exeter Riddles - Printed Score
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To download a pdf of the drum part to Movement IV. Bagpipe, click here.