Urizen

diptych for organ duet after William Blake

Martin Bussey

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diptych for organ duet after William Blake

£11.99
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Composer Martin Bussey
Year of Composition 2016
Duration 9' 30"
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Catalogue ID ce-mb2u1

Notes

Urizen was composed for the organ duo of Tom Bell and Richard Brasier and performed in a series of recitals in various venues, including Leicester Cathedral, in 2016. The possibilities of four hands and four feet playing on one organ sets up challenges of co-ordination but also provides great textural and colouristic opportunities. Both are exploited in this diptych based on the drawings of William Blake which attempts to represent the immense power and originality of Blake’s work. Urizen features in Blake’s Prophetic Books of the 1790s as a representation of Reason, one of the elements which Blake imagines separating out from the other elements of the human mind.

The two movements are set either side of a short, static sequence of only two, lengthy chords. These represent Urizen ‘in chains’ (illustration 20 of The First Book of Urizen) and reappear in the second movement. The first movement is based on illustration 5, where Urizen is held fast by the coils of a serpent, giving the impression of turning constantly in a ‘fathomless void’ with ‘intense fires for his dwelling’. This is represented by the sense of constant motion achievable on the organ, which requires no breathing spaces, the perpetual motion enabled by the two pairs of hands. The second movement, following the middle chords, reflects on one of Blake’s most celebrated images ‘The Ancient of Days’, the frontispiece to Europe a Prophecy. It is prefaced by a linked quotation from The First Book of Urizen where Urizen forms a ‘dividing rule’, mirroring ‘The Ancient of Days’. This movement is a celebration of power in Creation. The question of whether the image is benign lies at the heart of the movement’s struggle.