When I read Edgar Allan Poe’s take on the Koranic angel Israfel, "whose heart-strings are a lute, and who has the sweetest voice of all God’s creatures", I knew we were on the same page.
I wanted to write a piece that sang, floated, morphed, moved, moved us, lifted us, had power, had fragility, had hope, uncertainty, beauty - something otherworldly, something transcendental - something to shake us.
His poem perfectly conjures up the myriad emotions I wanted to take the listener through. In terms of structure the piece is divided into two parts. The first part has an ever-shifting, singing quality, and the second a faster more determined drive towards a dramatic climax. The coda however is bittersweet, as in the poem, which concludes with the author wondering whether if their places were switched, he could make a better melody from his lyre.
(c) Mark Simpson, 2015
Commissioned by BBC Radio 3 for the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra
"…there’s something refreshing about Simpson’s honesty. This music isn’t shy; it doesn’t play hard to get. It isn’t trying to be anything but itself, and its blithe, uninhibited energy pays honour to Poe’s "Israfel, who despisest an unimpassioned song".
"…a good piece, ambitious in its canvas, short, but of epic dimensions, wide-screen in its feel, but with a melodic spirit at its heart."