William Blake’s Birthday – 1

William Blake (1757-1827), watercolor portrait by John Linnell, from the collection in the National Portrait Gallery, London

On the occasion of William Blake‘s birthday, here‘s a recording of Allen (and Steven Taylor) at Naropa in July 10, 1989, reading from and performing some of William Blake’s poems from”Songs of Innocence and Experience“, in a classroom setting.

See also these essential recordings:

This transcription comes in two parts

Audio for the full presentation may be heard here

AG: …what’ll we do next.. I think that.. I like the acapella..  (to Steven)..I don’t know if you know the changes on “Night”, so I’ll just do it by myself.  One of my favorite and one that is one of the most interesting memorable of the songs… When kids read these, this is probably one of the strongest. It’s called “Night”

(to Steven) Now we do “Spring”? – Next, is a sing-along again, “Spring”.. Spring (to Steven) Are you in tune? Want to tune up?. You just come in on the choruses.

Student: That last one was  G
AG Yeah, was supposed to be  – Dum-dum dum-dum dum-dum-dum-dum- da-da da-da da-da – it’s almost a waltz, actually.

Student:  (Well are you going to do all the hills echo-ed” ?)

AG: We’ll get to that… Yes, of course, that’s “Nurse’s Song”. It comes in..two more, two more up. Now we have two more sing-alongs. The chorus here is” Merrily, merrily, to welcome in the year”,  and at the end  “Merrily, merrily, we welcome in the year”.
(to Steven) Do it together?

Now there’s a song!  – There’s a little more accent on this…little more accent..
ST: Well, ok – these are my fingers
AG Oh I see.  You wanna..you wanna..
ST: A pick?
AG: All I got is a key!
ST (improvises) here we go
AG: Do you know the accents on this?
ST: Yes. Do I know the accents!
AG: It’s full-measured…no, no, I’m talking about “and ALL the hills ECHO-ed”, you know. It’s all the hills e-choed, so you get a little whoompf into it. Ok – “Nurse’s Song” – also a sing-along and the singalong line is “All the hills echoed” or “All the hills echo-ed”. And then we’ll follow that with “Nurse’s Song” from “Songs of Experience”
(to Steven) (let me) get that straight. What is that C and F?

Ok. What have we got next now? After that,  O, “Sick Rose“, yeah. So there’s some interpretation of “The Sick Rose” now. The rose is Eros or the body. The worm.. maybe.. a rose of the spirit. The worm is the body, the worm of sixty winters. So the body having found the spirit is devouring the spirit because the body dies. Or it could be that the rose is Eros and Life, and the worm is Death and Death is slowly invading…Time, the worm might be Time itself. Eros and Time.
(to Steven). What have we got on that that was.. da-da…I think it’s a G, continuous G.

Then the next is on the tape, I think, [Allen has brought along a tape of some of his Blake recordings] – “The Fly”  (unless I’m mistaken, it may be..it may not be, it may be “On Another’s Sorrow” but we’ll take it either way (If this is “On Another’s Sorrow” it drops out now and then like the other, but mainly it’s…)
“On Another’s Sorrow”. – Can I see another’s woe and not be in sorrow too?/ Can I see another’s grief,/and not seek for kind relief?/ Can I see a falling tear and not feel my sorrows share..”  (AG reads the poem. following along with the recording)
Sorry, I didn’t realize these were so muddy on the (recording). Shall we go on to “Hear the Voice of the Bard..”  (that’s A and A – A minor – A)

(to Steven). – here’s where.. here’s a chord change *
ST:  OK.
AG:  – there –  chord-changes are here – and A and then back to A-minor – resolving on A-minor – (all) else it’s A-minor –  “Introduction to Songs of Experience”, (which is just a continuous.. –  tremolo maybe?. or an organ, or whatever.. or whatever way you want to do it.
AG: (You’ve got an A-minor?)
ST: Yes if I…
AG: Good

Next is.. I think we’ll go on to “The Nurse’s Song” from “Experience”, as distinct from the sing-along happy “Nurse’s Song”. It’s really true.
In other words, when you get old and grey you still feel internally, erotically, like thirteen.  So you have to spend your winter and night in disguise, making-believe it don’t matter!

Now we go to “The Fly”, I think. That’s on the..  Next is “The Fly”, which is the closest to, actually, in a funny way, a sort of Buddhist statement – about what is the nature of life and death (and life has breath, actually, life has spiritus)   I-2-3 (plays recording and sings along a little) – I don’t know if you could hear the words but..

“Lit-tle fly..” “Little fly/ thy summer’s play/My thoughtless hand/Has brush’d away/Am not I/A fly like thee/Or art not thou/A man like me?/ For I dance/And drink and sing/ Till some blind hand/Shall brush my wing/. If thought is life/And strength & breath;/And the want/Of thought is death,/ Then am I/A happy fly/If I live/Or if I …. ”

part two of transcription continues here

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