In the late 1980s, I thought about writing a set of songs, or an oratorio, using words from William Blake's poem The Book of Urizen. Urizen is Blake's version of The Fall, written in the voice of a prophet. I was never able to finish the piece, which was out of my reach for a lot of reasons. It's hard to write music with the intensity and pacing to carry that voice, for one thing. It would also have been difficult to get it performed, because it required a number of instruments, a small choir, and vocal soloists. It didn't get further than a collection of sketches.

After finishing Music for Michael Skrtic in early 2013, I looked through these sketches, and decided to write a set of short pieces inspired by the Blake. They would be purely electronic, without words. I made a couple of other ground rules: use (almost) no pianos, use many samples of natural sounds, make each piece fairly short, and follow a planned sequence of more energetic and quieter pieces. I re-read the poem (and Blake in general) while composing, and used ideas from the old sketches in places.

The music does not represent the content of the poem. It stands on its own, so that listeners do not have to know the poem to appreciate the piece. However, the music is intended to reflect the tone and atmosphere of the poetry, at least the way that I read it. The names are strange and the action is like a dream, but it falls into familiar patterns, and speaks with a likewise familiar elevation and formality.

Blake Pieces is dedicated with respect and affection to Michael Braz.

All music composed and performed by Tom DePlonty (BMI). Copyright © 2014 by Tom DePlonty. All rights reserved.

Blake reproductions from The Book of Urizen, used in the cover art, are in the public domain. Courtesy the Google Art Project, via Wikimedia Commons.

Thanks to Diane DePlonty, for providing the ceramics used to create the samples in “the seventh day”. Thanks also to David Rigby, for recording cicada samples and giving me permission to use them in “divided in form of a Human Heart”