Sunday, 15 September 2019

He saw that it was good|bad|neither good nor bad

I didn't know – until I heard Simon Schama's excellent Schama on Blake on Radio 4 the other day – that Blake was a poet only in his spare time.
<AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL_NOTE type="Introduction">
My introduction to William Blake, the poet, was a whole-class detention (back when teachers could do that sort of thing) during which we were required to learn The Tyger by heart. Ma Griffiths (the teacher, so dubbed because she insisted on being addressed as "Ma'am") can't have tested us very stringently, as only the first 4 lines  stuck – and even then I have to check whether the symmetry is fearless or fearful. And I have vague structural (gist) memories: the second stanza is a series of questions asking what...?;  the last revisits the first (though how accurately I don't know).
I underestimated the power of that rote learning. Although this memory was not strong enough to interfere with my singing in the 2019 Christmas concert, it's strong enough to make me expect the words of Rutter's Star Carol 'See the star, shining bright' to continue 'In the forests of the night'.
The programme was tied to an exhibition at Tate Britain
With over 300 original works, including his watercolours, paintings and prints, this is the largest show of Blake’s work for almost 20 years. It will rediscover him as a visual artist for the 21st century. 

More here
I'm not sure what "rediscover[ing] him as an artist for the 21st century" involves exactly, but I mean to find out.

One of Blake's most famous artistic works  is Europe, a prophecy, which Wikipedia uses to illustrate its entry  on Haydn's Creation (I'm not sure why...

Newton by William Blake -
The William Blake Archive, Public Domain,
(in my view his work Newton would have been  more appropriate. Wikipedia, like Schama, describes the implement he is wielding as "compasses", but I'm not so sure. Compasses, as any schoolchild knows, are used in construction. But in this case I think what we can see are dividers (used to measure). A mighty creator would have used compasses.

Europe, a Prophecy - The William Blake Archive, Public Domain,
This  puny geometer, though, is just measuring. Blake‘s "Art is the Tree of Life. Science is the Tree of Death." suggests that he wasn't a fan of Newton and his  ilk.) 

I don't see what makes  Europe, a Prophecy relevant to The CreationThe dividers are still there, but the geometer is older.  Did Blake know something we don't?
... though).
On 20 November 2010 at Wellington College Newsome Sports Hall Wokingham Choral Society last sang Haydn's Creation. Reading Chronicle's review called it "this most satisfying evening". The Wokingham Times reported possible misgivings about the venue, but in the end said
While it is true that there was a slight vibration in some of the louder sections, the performance was so well prepared and polished that this did not interfere with the power of the music.
Fortunately,  when the choir sings this marvellous piece again (just under 9 years later, on 16 November 2019) it will be at the University of Reading's Great Hall – with better acoustics and nearer to home. 
And the relevance of this – albeit tenuous and coincidental (hallmark of Harmless Drudgery, the "snapper up of unconsidered trifles") is that the tenor soloist at the concert will be "William Blake". 
<TEXTUAL_INFO type="plug"> 
For further  details on Haydn's  score for The Creation  (particularly the translation), if you're  feeling strong, you could  read this (a 68 page document, though only the first 55 are the  main text). You might prefer, though, to come to James Morley Potter's free introductory talk at 6.30 pm on the day of the performance.

Update: 2019.11.12.15:30 – Added PS


Correction: the tenor at our Creation concert next Saturday will not be "William Blake" (as originally announced). The tenor will be the young Dutch soloist Stefan Kennedy.

Update: 2020.01.02.15:00 – Added inline PPS.

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