It seemed a long time since I last had a new performance to share. I checked, and found it’d only been a week, but since then the moon has had a red eclipse, and in my country there’s been a couple of mass shootings motivated by ignorant ethnic hatreds. Willful ignorance combined with violence is particularly ugly, and presently a state-leader with missiles and bigger guns wants to kill to impress too.
I’ve completed no new pieces. I tried to start two, but so far nothing is developing. So today I thought I’d present this new-to-you performance of William Blake’s “The Tyger,” mostly because it’s pretty good and I don’t have anything else ready. I made that decision this morning, and then I suddenly realized that “The Tyger,” a poem first published in 1794 by a mystical Englishman, has turned just about right for this ominous spring and our current year.
Over 40 years ago, I was in bed and my partner asked me how I could account for the presence in the world of evil.* Strange place and time for that question — for in that moment I was more impressed with beauty and joy. I stumbled for my answer: good was always present in the universe, and always powerful enough to overcome evil — but not always both at the same point. Alas, “not always” is more painful than it sounds to nakedly say.
Visionary poet William Blake asked that question too. Blake was born into a family of religious dissenters and progressed to rebel even further from Christian dogma. He intuited a moral universe where evil was caused by over-justified powers of the creator. Interesting thought that. In “The Tyger” poet Blake asks a manifestation of terrible predatory power a series of rhetorical questions, meaning to direct our thoughts in the direction of his conclusion.
Now, to get to my performance of Blake’s poem, we need to make a jump cut. Ready?
Year of the Tyger, three times.
In what’s usually called the Chinese zodiac, years go through a 12 year cycle. I wrote this musical setting for a video of an event in 2010 tied to the Chinese Year of the Tiger. In order to extend the length of performance to the length needed for the video, I refrained Blake’s “Tyger Tyger burning bright” stanza after every verse, a tactic which makes it longer than I’d like it to be today. As it turned out, the video ran longer than planned, and I needed to cross-fade even my lengthened “Tyger” with another piece then for the final cut of the video. Given how long ago the recording was done, I only have that completed mix from the video’s soundtrack, so “The Tyger” I present today ends on the start of that cross-fade.
The “Chinese Zodiac” progresses, and as it goes we’ve once again come to the Year of the Tiger in 2022. I think this performance from the previous Year of the Tiger retains its power and so I present it to you now.** There’s an audio player gadget below that will play it for many of you, and where that’s absent, here’s a highlighted link that’s an alternative way to play it.
*This all seems way too Leonard Cohen doesn’t it? No, it actually happened like that.
**I often find I have one more question as I think I’ve finished a post. This time, I asked myself, what year in the Zodiac cycle was Blake’s 1794? Why, another Year of the Tiger of course.