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Program note: Paradisde Unseen

  • Nigel Butterley
  • Source: The Song Company Modern Art Series 16, 17 June 2001

Paradise Unseen (world première) Nigel Butterley (b. 1935)
"In 1988 I found a small volume of poems by Kathleen Raine, and wanted to respond in music. Since then
her poetry has resulted in two large works, The Woven Light (1994) for soprano and orchestra, and Spell of
Crealion(2000) for soprano, baritone, çhorus and orchestra. My first setting of her poetry was an
occasional piece written for The Song Company in 1992, of only one page long. A few years later Roland
Peelman asked me to write some more Raine settings so as to make a more usable set. Eventually I put
together a sequence of verses, all written in the mid seventies except the last, which is from The Dream
(1992). The original setting, of a verse ftom Behind the Lids of Sleep, is in the centre and has now gained
five more beats as well as a slower tempo. The others are all complete short poems.
Kathleen Raine's poetry appeals to me for its neo-Platonic imagery, its concise and skillful structure, and
for the fresh, sonorous use of words which are often quite simple and ordinary. It is also a privilege to be
writing with the approval and encouragement of a great living poet. The premiere of Paradise Unseen occurs
just two days after Dr Raine's 93rd birthday" Nigel Butterley