The human heart

for SATB a cappella
14 mins.
Feb 2009

1. A divine image
2. The Fly
3. The Lamb
4. The sick rose
5. The Tiger

Programme note

The human heart was written in February 2009, after I heard a performance of John Tavener’s haunting setting of The Lamb which made me want to see what I could do with Blake’s  Songs of Innocence and Experience. I had made an elaborate choral setting of The Tiger in 1995 for the National Youth Choir of Great Britain; but this time I wanted to keep things simpler and stick to four-part SATB choir, with a few small solos.

The human heart is a genuine song-cycle, in that each song leads to the next, and there is an overall theme which is summed up by the title: beneath Blake’s mystical and socially subversive language (which are very much the product of his time) his abiding concern seems to me the co-existence of good and evil within the human heart, and the violent contradictions which this causes. Musically, these songs are quite simple: all of them except The Fly are mainly in two real parts, with sopranos and tenors singing one line in octaves, and altos and basses the other, in varying forms of canon.

Giles Swayne 2009