One Minute Song from an Angel

I Heard an Angel Singing

Back in the summer I composed a one minute piece for soprano and fixed media. It was part of a collection of 15 songs in collaboration with the soprano Anné-Marie Condacse on the theme Angeli, premiered on September 10th.

I have never thought about angles. I knew angels were “beings” found in the desert religions and appear in European paintings, sculptures, and architecture. After thinking about angles, I came to the conclusion that it was lucky to be an angel. I recorded rolling dice and shuffling cards as a sound suggesting luck. The title comes from the William Blake poem “I heard an Angel:”

I heard an Angel singing
When the day was springing
‘Mercy, Pity, Peace
Is the world’s release.’

Thus he sung all day
Over the new mown hay,
Till the sun went down
And haycocks looked brown.

I heard a Devil curse
Over the health and the furze,
‘Mercy could be no more,
If there was nobody poor,

And pity no more could be,
If all we happy as we.
At his curse the sun went down,
And the heavens gave a frown.

Down poured the heavy rain
Over the new reaped grain…
Is Mercy, Pity, Peace.

Considering the piece is one minute I condensed the poem to “Have Mercy. Have Pity. Have Peace.”

Another angel reference comes from a short section from the opening of the Sanctus from Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis: two angles (two flutes) accompany Jesus (solo violin) down from heaven to earth. The soprano’s text, “Have Mercy. Have Pity. Have Peace.” is accompanied by the Beethoven. The basic idea of the piece is an angel (the singer) singing on a cloud where we hear wind and an airplane pass by.

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About Mark Gustavson

I am a composer of unconventional music.
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