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Gwyn Pritchard: Enitharmon
mezzo soprano & piano (1973)

Enitharmon was not composed to a commission, but as a spontaneous response to the William Blake text which it sets.  This is taken from his epic poem: The Four Zoas, and is an extract from a ‘song’ which appears within it, sung by the character Enitharmon, one of Blake’s pantheon of symbolic, archetypal figures; in this case representing an aspect of “the Eternal Female”.

At the time I was struck both by the evocative character of the language and by the manner in which the movement between extremes of imagery reveal the nature of Enitharmon.  More specifically, however, I was drawn to the possibility of penetrating the text musically by employing an unconventional (at that time) approach to word setting, which involved the frequent emphasis or elongation of letters or syllables that would normally be unimportant or short.  This, along with a number of other defined techniques of articulation, allows the vocal line to explore the highly characteristic syntax and imagery of the text without being restricted to a comprehensible delivery of it.  Indeed, it could be argued that I was attempting not so much to set the text to music but rather to turn the text into music; and whilst the result is at an immense distance from the music that I write these days (it was composed when I was twenty-five) this perspective on the fundamental relation between words and music has remained to this day. 

Enitharmon is dedicated to my wife Claudia, and itas performance is discussed in depth in Jane Manning’s book New Vocal Repertory (published by OUP).  The text is as follows:

 I seize the sphery harp.  I strike the strings. 

At the first sound the Golden sun arises from the deep
And shakes his awful hair,
The Eccho wakes the moon to unbind her silver locks,
The golden sun bears on my song
And nine bright spheres of harmony rise round the fiery king.

They sing unceasing to the notes of my immortal hand.
The solemn silent moon
Reverberates the living harmony upon my limbs,
The birds & beasts rejoice & play,
And every one seeks for his mate to prove his inmost joy. 

Now my left hand I stretch to earth beneath,
And strike the terrible string.
I wake sweet joy in dens of sorrow & I plant a smile
In forests of affliction,
And wake the bubbling springs of life in regions of dark death.

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