Instrumentation: guitar and electronics
Duration: 60 minutes
Text: Nick Flynn / William Blake
World Premiere: April 14, 2023, SITE Gallery, Houston, TX
An immersive performance of Vala, William Blake’s masterpiece, as distilled by Nick Flynn
William Blake began Vala at the dawn of the industrial age, as the new factories began billowing smoke into London’s sky—the poem prophesized the ecological devastation that was to follow. Blake abandoned the project ten years later, yet it remains his “most extraordinary achievement” (G.E. Bentley, Jr.). The poem also warns against various other contemporary dangers, from chattel slavery (as practiced at the time in England), to unregulated capitalism, to authoritarianism, to anything that limits the imagination.
Nick Flynn has distilled Blake’s apocalyptic vision into an hour-long performance. Since 2006, versions have been performed in the UK (London and Manchester), Boston, and New York. The premiere of the fully realized production was due to be presented during the Countercurrent Festival (Spring 2020) at SITE Gallery (Houston), but that performance was derailed (perhaps appropriately) by the global pandemic. In December 2020 we regrouped and gathered four actors in Brooklyn (at Pioneer Works) to film the entire sequence.