Blesi (Five Transitions of the Soul)
for 6 players
Programme note

This piece was conceived during a time spent in Iceland a few years ago. Blesi - Icelandic for “one that blazes” - is the name given to a geothermal phenomenon found within the Geysir National Park (home of the original ‘geyser’). It consists of a pair of deep pools of water, one of which is a light green colour, its water boiling hot and its surface shimmering and steaming (being the origin of its name). A thin connecting rivulet allows water to flow across into the other pool, the water of which is a deep azure blue; its temperature is very warm, but nothing like the searing temperatures of its source. This struck me as an apt metaphor for the tenuous relationship between the individual and their ideals, where the blazing source becomes cooled to, at best, a warm version of the original.

The work explores this idea in part through the parallel notion of being ‘out of sync’. The material is rooted in a deep, fundamental pulse, in groups of seven, from which the ensemble rebels and ultimately disconnects, forging its own way forward within a different metre (grouped in sixes). The fundamental material is essentially changeless in character, simply tolling out its metre in calm simple fashion, while the instruments that have split off from this pursue alternative ideas, focussing on five episodes, each of which explores a different kind of transition. Ultimately, this essential lack of synchronisation is shown in the structural divisions of the work, whch form a large 7:6 rhythmic relationship, mirrored in the shifts of metre, from seven to six. The rhythmic relationship of 7:6 can be interpreted as an attempt at perfection (7) within a context that is nothing of the kind (6).

The five central episodes explore transitions inspired by a lyric from a song by Nine Inch Nails: “so many dirty little places / in your filthy little worn out broken down see through soul”. Those five epithets, ‘filthy’, ‘little’, ‘worn out’, ‘broken down’ and ‘see-through’, form the basis for the transitions. Some involve a shift in the parameters of a basic state, while others undergo a complete change of behaviour. But throughout them all, it is too simplistic to say that the transitions are “from good to bad”; the overall deviation away from the underlying order may be viewed in that light, but not the transitions themselves. As a consequence of the deviation from seven to six, they could perhaps be said to be ‘not good’ in their entirety, but i see both merits and shortcomings in both the start and end conditions of each transition.

It goes without saying that, in different ways, Blesi explores failure. But my hope is that the work will be heard in a broader, more optimistic light: of the determination to keep striving in the wake of failures and mistakes, and of the heroism that impels such aspirations.


flute / bass flute
B-flat clarinet / bass clarinet
percussion: tubular bells, marimba, deep tam-tam, pedal bass drum, small bell