• Michael Blake Watkins
  • Spirit Of The Earth (1978)

  • Novello & Co Ltd (World)

Commissioned by Carlos Bonell with funds provided by the Toronto Guitar Festival '78

  • guitar
  • 12 min

Programme Note

Michael Blake Watkins: The Spirit of the Earth

Michael Blake Watkins’ The Spirit of the Earth was composed to commission in 1978/9 for Carlos Bonell to play at the Toronto Guitar Festival. The work springs from the spirit of two quotations from the poet Shelley:

The spirit of the Earth is laid asleep,
And you can see its little lips are moving,
Amid the changing light of their own smiles,
Like one who talks of what he loves in dream’
Prometheus Unbound Act IV

The everlasting universe of things
Flows through the mind, and rolls its rapid waves,
Now dark – now glittering – now reflecting gloom –
Now lending splendour, where from secret springs
The source of human thought its tribute brings…
Mont Blanc excerpt

The work makes extremely effective use of the guitar’s possibilities for subtlety of attack and tonal nuance. The structure is in reality highly organised on thematic and motivic principles, the effect seems rather to be one of evocative lyrical growth. The vocabulary is highly chromatic, displaying the influence of serialism, although this is not applied in the manner even of Webern or Berg at their most free; the influences – inasfar as there are any – seem to be later – late Stravinsky, Boulez, Italian avant-garde and – though only in the special lyrical mystery and the web-like intricacy of the calculated is clearly continuous in address (it would be inappropriate to connect any movement with only one of the Shelley extracts), there are three movements: each of the last two tempo-markings (Con affezione…and Vitamente) heads a complete movement.