De Profundis: Speaking of Music
Thursday, October 29, 2015
Roy Barnett Recital Hall, Music Building (6361 Memorial Road)
$15 Adults | $10 students
Available online at or by phone at 604.822.2697 or in-person at the Chan Centre Ticket Office


In advance of the De Profundis performance, the Library chatted with Dr. Terence Dawson (School of Music) and Dr. Gregory Mackie (Department of English) about the joint collaboration and inspiration behind the event.

Dr. Terence Dawson (School of Music)WITH DR. TERENCE DAWSON

What is inspiring about performing this piece given the context of the Wilde letters?

Dr. Dawson: The inspiration in performing the piece comes from the necessity to immerse oneself in Wilde’s desperate situation. This situation led [Oscar] Wilde to pen the words of his letter to Lord Alfred Douglas. One can only hope that Wilde’s experience of intense sufferings were somewhat eased by his expressions of sorrow, loss, madness and even hopefulness. His physical situation, which was his “plank bed, loathsome food, hard ropes, harsh orders, dreadful dress, silence, solitude and shame…”, he tried to transform into a “spiritual experience” and a “spiritualising of the soul”. Perhaps this alone saved him from insanity. 

How did the collaboration with Dr. Gregory Mackie arise?

I wanted to hear Greg’s opinions as a Wildean scholar who would shed some light on this journey. I read of the UBC Library acquisitions of Wilde manuscripts and it was as though Wilde himself dropped this opportunity right in front of me at the time I was preparing for my first performance of the work in March 2015. The panel discussion was a natural fit, as was the participation of my colleague in the School of Music, David Metzer.

What would you like the audience to walk away with at the conclusion of this performance?

I hope the audience will understand that Rzewski’s expressive music is driven by Wilde’s words. The fusion of the two elements of music and text is much like the pairing of Schubert and Goethe; one cannot imagine a more perfect union. Performing the work is a journey for me as a pianist, and I hope the audience will walk away having felt like they have experienced a kind of journey themselves.

Dr. Gregory Mackie (English)WITH DR. GREGORY MACKIE

How do Oscar Wilde’s letters during his imprisonment shed light into his life as an unconventional playright/author?

Dr. Mackie: De Profundis is actually one long (very long) letter. The title (“out of the depths”) was added by Wilde’s literary executor after the writer’s death. Wilde actually called it “Epistola: In Carcere et Vinculis” (Letter from Prison and in Chains). It’s his most autobiographical work, by far, and it’s largely the source of the legend of Wilde as the suffering martyr – a fatally misunderstood champion of art and beauty. It gives us a lot of information about Wilde’s life during the years leading up to his scandalous downfall in the trials of 1895. Wilde wrote it to Lord Alfred Douglas, his sometime lover. Douglas had goaded Wilde into launching the libel suit that ended in spectacular failure with Wilde being imprisoned for “gross indecency”- basically homosexuality.

How much does the letter provide a glimpse of the constraints of Victorian conceptions about homosexuality?

The letter doesn’t have all that much to say, specifically, about Victorian conceptions of homosexuality — it alludes to these things more indirectly, and instead offers up a more universal condemnation of injustice and oppression. It’s a very emotive, philosophical, and expressive piece, because Wilde is trying to make meaning from his abject humiliation and suffering – to extract something from the wreck of his life. The conditions under which it was written are also mind-blowing: Wilde was permitted to write only a certain amount per day over several weeks, and he demonstrates total recall of a great number of literary works, including his own.

Movement of library materials from the Music Library to the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre (IKBLC) continues into next week. If you are looking for Music scores denoted with subclass M, they can be found on Floor 3 of IKBLC. The Music current journals have been moved to IKBLC. They are filed with the Art, Architecture and Planning (AArP) and Math (QA) current journals in call number order on Floor 3 near the entrance.

By the end of this week, the librarianship current journals will be transferred to IKBLC as well. On June 20, the Wilson CD collection will relocate from Koerner Library to IKBLC, where they will be on open shelving on Floor 3 near the current journals. The delivery of the Music collection will take place June 23 – 26.

The Music Library will be relocating as of June 21. From June 24 – 26, music collections and services will relocate to the Library at the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre. 

The current location in the Music Building will be closed with limited retrievals and seminar room access available 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. while the move is underway. We regret any temporary service disruptions.

We look forward to seeing you in the new Library in the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre:

  • Music collections on levels 3 – 4
  • Listening stations, multimedia rooms on level 3 (opening September 2013). Temporary listening facilities will be available during the summer.
  • Music reference staff offices on level 4, room 414. Our telephone and email contacts remain unchanged. Staff will be accessible after June 24.

Please check the UBC Library Changes website for more information.

Collections moves continue in Irving K. Barber Learning Centre (IKBLC) this week with deadlines fast approaching. The Reference collection has been moved from Floor 4 to Floor 3, with space left for the incoming Music and SLAIS reference materials.

There are approximately ten thousand items in IKBLC that will need to be interfiled with the Music collection. Approximately 60 book trucks will be lined up on Floor 4 of IKBLC. The materials will remain in call number order and accessible to patrons and staff, and signage will be posted.

Library staff are coordinating to integrate current journals from Music, Woodward, Humanities & Social Sciences and Art, Architecture and Planning (AArP) into one location. They will be located in the first two shelving ranges nearest the entrance on Floor 3 of IKBLC.


The proposed relocation of UBC’s Music Library, part of a series of changes outlined by UBC Library in order to transform its service models, has been covered by the Ubyssey

The article is entitled “UBC music community gathers at town hall to keep library in-house,” and is accompanied by a related editorial.

a place of mind, The University of British Columbia

UBC Library





Emergency Procedures | Accessibility | Contact UBC | © Copyright The University of British Columbia

Spam prevention powered by Akismet