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Tygers of Wrath

By John Coulthart

The Tygers of Wrath was a William Blake-themed evening of readings and performance staged by Tate Britain at The Purcell Room, London, on February 2nd, 2001. The event was intended to provide a celebratory end to the gallery’s major Blake exhibition. Writer Alan Moore and his musician colleague, Tim Perkins, were asked to participate; I became involved with the visuals since I’d already designed one of Alan and Tim’s earlier CDs, “The Highbury Working.”

Running order of the evening was as follows: Billy Bragg / Iain Sinclair and Brian Catling / Jah Wobble and Deep Space / interval / Alan and Tim / Composer Simon Boswell with guests Ewan MacGregor, Dave Rowntree (Blur), Glen Matlock (Sex Pistols) and others. The finale had all contributors onstage to sing “Jerusalem.”

Also on stage with Alan and Tim was dancer Andrea Svajcsik whose fire-breathing act was about all she managed due to the limitations of the stage area. Alan’s reading was a lengthy piece entitled “Angel Passage” (named after a small street on the north bank of the Thames). Alan’s scheme divided Blake’s life into four sections: Innocence, Hell, Experience and Heaven. My task was to provide a video accompaniment for the 40-minute reading with music, something I managed (due to technical delays) in only five days. Lack of time meant that I was rather lazily reliant on computer effects to generate interest in what would otherwise have been a fairly static slide show affair.

The video piece was structured to match the words and music: Innocence, describing Blake’s childhood, was tranquil and drifting; Hell used a famous sequence from “Dante’s Inferno” (1935), a film by Harry Lachman, that I tinted red; Experience described Blake’s working life leading to his death and showed a succession of Blake’s pictures with corners turning like the pages of a book; Heaven was an uptempo race through contemporary London as a ghostly Blake examines the city of the future. For this I created an increasingly frenetic psychedelic montage of racing traffic and street scenes juxtaposed with Blake’s works, the whole culminating in the appearance of his “Glad Day” figure. Then the entire Heaven sequence began running backwards at even greater speeds until the music ended.

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