Music: Chris Williams
Video: Alex McEwen
Poet and painter, printmaker and polymath: the creative genius of William Blake remains just as potent in the twenty-first century as it did two hundred years ago. In 2018, Sansara Choir were inspired to adapt a section of Jerusalem to perform at a newly unveiled memorial, and now composer Chris Williams has combined forced with videographer Alex McEwen to create an intricate audio-visual work entitled A Golden String.
With four video boxes placed in a grid on the organisation’s website, each one contains members of the Sansara choir singing a different aspect of Williams’ music, while a quarter globe spins in the corner of the frame as the face of an individual singer, as well as smoke effects, the craterous-surface of a planet and images from Blake’s paintings combine within the gold-themed visuals.
Play them all sequentially and each of the four-minute pieces reveals something different; I Gave You the End of a Golden String in the top left corner fills its run-time with sound, echoey female voices that variously repeat the title phrase; In the bottom left corner It Will Lead You to Heaven’s Gate uses male voices to do the same while the distance of the vocalists from the microphone seems to vary more noticeably, fading-out entirely after almost three minutes to leave a silent video experience.
On the other side of the page are two pieces entitled Jerusalem, the top right corner is Jerusalem (lower) which reveals the higher part of the orb and male voices again which fade after two and a half minutes. This time faces, notably from Blake’s Elohim Creating Adam from 1795, appear in the layers of graphic. Jerusalem (upper) in the bottom corner has a whispering quality as female voices repeat the title’s single word, ending after three minutes.
Beautiful on their own, they become something else entirely when you play all four videos together – although you’ll need some nifty mouse or trackpad action to start them all at the same time – as the images combine, they form the full graphic of a planet across which clouds move from left to right, figures from Blake’s work appear more clearly and the emergence of the performers is timed with care.
As a complete experience, it nods to the ethereal quality of Blake’s work in the reverential sounds of Williams’ composition, while Blake’s obsession with religion and particularly the Old Testament God comes across in the visuals and the almost pleading nature of the vocals.
A Golden String is designed to give you the freedom to layer the videos as you choose, creating different arrangements and compositions to vary what you see and hear. And if you leave the videos to run, they automatically replay from the beginning creating an endless loop of graphic and sound. A short piece but an interesting response to Blake’s work that will impress enthusiasts.