1979 Naropa – Ginsberg Sings Blake

William Blake (1757-1827), 1807 – Portrait (watercolor) by Thomas Phillips, courtesy the Morgan Library and Museum, New York

Allen Ginsberg on William Blake.

We return to his Naropa teaching (from the Summer of 1979).
After a series of sessions, (teaching from Blake’s prophetic books), he concluded that program (on August 20) with this – he, Steven Taylor and Peter Orlovsky performing an impromptu concert of Blake songs  – early versions of what we’d later hear here:

and here:


Audio is available. The impromptu class/concert can be listened to – here

AG:  So we’ll start with the “Introduction to Songs of Innocence”, What we’ve done over the years is thirty-five of the forty-five songs of the Songs of Innocence and Experience. Some have been recorded and are out of print [1979] and some have been recorded and never been issued, some have not been recorded

Allen begins the class, performing songs from both Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience, occasionally at the outset having difficulty with the right chord progressions (being assisted by Steven Taylor) and making minimal remarks (with the exception of his comments about “The Tyger”)

Introduction to Songs of Innocence – The Shepherd – The Echoing Green [acapella] –“The Lamb”“The Little Black Boy” – “The Blossom”“The Chimney Sweeper”“The Little Boy Lost” – “The Little Boy Found” -‘“Laughing Song”A Cradle Song” – The Divine Image” –  “Holy Thursday” – “Night” –  “Spring”  -“Nurse’s Song”  –“Infant Joy”“A Dream” “On Another’s Sorrow”

(and from Songs of Experience) –   Holy Thursday –  The Little Girl LostNurse’s Song The Sick Rose [ends abruptly] – The Fly [reprise] – The Tyger – Then we have “..Tyger” – the key of “The Tyger”, or the principle of this version of “The Tyger” is the recognition of the Luvah, heartbeat (“And when thy heart began to beat”) as the rhythmic basis, or trochaic, similar to the heartbeat, forming a symmetrical pattern against which the words, spoken as clear significant vernacular speech, can be syncopated, giving a gap in between “..symmetry” and  “in what distant deeps…”  (that would be the symmetrical gap, or the symmetrical heartbeat, appropriate to the “fearful symmetry”). And we’ll be doing it attempting to do the breathing according to the original pronunciation (in the Erdman (edition) (because that makes a lot more sense) and it’s interesting for singing. From the “Tyger Tyger comma” to the last verse “Tyger  Tyger..”  – My Pretty Rose Tree Ah! Sun-flower The Lilly –  The Garden of Love [that’s another country ‘n western! ] – London [reprise] – The Human Abstract [“..the possibility of getting to the human brain…“] –“To Tirzah” – The School Boy The Voice of the Ancient Bard [“Youth of delight, come hither” –  there’s a little tremolo on “hither”‘..“]

Then I was thinking to finish with, from Jerusalem, monochordal quatrains –  “The fields from Islington to…” wherever that is.  It’s a summary of the politics and also Jerusalem ..and it’s all done in quatrains… if I can find it..  “…fields from… I got it…

Allen concludes the recital with a setting of Blake’s lines – see here

“The fields from Islington to Marylebone,/ To Primrose Hill and Saint John’s Wood,/ Were builded over with pillars of gold,/And there Jerusalem’s pillars stood”……”A man’s worst enemies are those/Of his own house & family;/And he who makes his law a curse,/By his own law shall surely die./In my exchanges every land/Shall walk, & mine in every land/Mutual shall build Jerusalem:/Both in heart in heart & hand in hand.”

The tape concludes with Allen addressing the class regarding class assignments and plans and intentions for future classes

more Ginsberg and Blake tomorrow

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