The poems which form the basis of this work were inspired by a miniature mechanical organ playing eight tunes, once the property of George III. A scrap of paper sold with it explains that 'This Organ was George the Third for Birds to sing'.
Peter Maxwell Davies then set these poems to music and devised them as a semi-theatrical work for Male Vocalist, Piano, Violin, Cello, Flute, Clarinet, and Percussion. The songs are to be understood as the King's monologue while listening to his birds perform, and incorporate some sentences actually spoken by George III.
The resulting work, Eight Songs for a Mad King, was completed in 1969 and stands as one of the most distinctive, and arguably one of the most disturbing musical works from the twentieth century.
This is the Hawkes Pocket or Study Score Edition.