The Tyger

The piece "The Tyger" was created in 2023 for my final concert in the master's program in choral conducting. It is a setting of the famous poem "The Tyger" by William Blake.

At first glance, Blake describes the tiger as a wild, unruly and fearsome animal. However, one immediately notices the many rhetorical questions that are never answered. So the focus is turned to the creator of the tiger. Who dared to create such an animal?

The dense text, filled with expressive words, allows for many interpretations. The most convincing thing for me, which is also the reason why I chose the piece for this program, is that the tiger is a metaphor for man. The text contains references to God: "immortal hand" and "he who made the lamb." So God created man as a fearsome, uncontrollable animal. The fourth stanza contains many words that paint the picture of a forge (hammer, chain, anvil, fireplace) where weapons are also made. The many references to fire also point to the enormous destructive power of humans and their weapons. Even the rhythm of the lyrics is reminiscent of the relentless beating of a hammer on an anvil.

The text has already inspired a number of composers to create settings, and after singing some of these settings myself, I dared to create my own setting. My piece should transmit the text to the listener as directly and unadulterated as possible. The first and last parts are intended to represent the threat of the tiger through an unstoppable pulsating 5-beat. Each group of voices has its own rhythm, giving the impression of a large group of people talking over each other, excited and scared.

In the fourth verse, all voices come together to form a common, hammering rhythm, which expands from one note to an increasingly dissonant chord. The following verse is built on a very fragile, augmented chord that symbolizes the supernaturality of God, but also the insecurity towards his dangerous creation. The last verse finally picks up the thematic material from the beginning.

"The Tyger", by William Blake (1757-1827):

Tyger Tyger, burning bright,
In the forests of the night;
What immortal hand or eye,
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies,
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand, dare sieze [sic] the fire?

And what shoulder, & what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? & what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain,
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp,
Dare its deadly terrors clasp!

When the stars threw down their spears
And water'd heaven with their tears:
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

Tyger Tyger burning bright,
In the forests of the night:
What immortal hand or eye,
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?


Length: 4 min

banda vocale, Conductor: Julian Mörth, 2023