Mesmerised (1977, revision 1980)

first performance: July 2-1980, the Rocanati Auditorium of the Tel Aviv museum
Emilie Berendsen – soprano
musicians of the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra
conductor: Joan Franks Williams

The composition consists of 5 songs, based on notes from the diary of the English poet Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889). Hopkins is a well-known writer of a number of poems which have been put together with superb skill, but nevertheless make an artificial and inanimate impression.
However, in the poetry written towards the end of his life the intellectual façade of complicated rhythms and rhymes gradually crumbles down. An emotional and frustrated personality becomes visible. The music is supposed to throw light upon this rather unknown aspect of Hopkins’ personality.


Song 1: April 27, 1871
Mesmerised a duck with chalk lines drawn from her beak sometimes level and sometimes forwards on a black table. They explain that the bird keeping the abiding offscape of the hand grasping her neck fancies she is still held down and cannot lift her head as long as she looks at the chalk line, which she associates with the power that holds her. This duck lifted her head at once when I put it down on the table without chalk. But this seems inadequate. It is most likely the fascinating instress of the straight white stroke.

Song 2: May 5, 1868
Cold. Resolved to be a religious.

Song 3: from August 16, 1873
…Therefore candles in bottles, things not ready, darkness and despair. In fact being unwell I was quite downcast: nature in all her parcels and faculties gaped and fell apart, fatiscebat (sank exhausted), like a clod cleaving and holding only by strings of root. But this must often be.

The comet – I have seen it at bedtime in the west, with head to the ground, white, a soft well-shaped tail, not big: I felt a certain awe and instress, a feeling af strangeness, flight (it hangs like a shuttlecock at the height, before it falls), and of threatening.

Song 4: May 11, 1868
Dull: afternoon fine. Slaughter of the Innocents. See above, the 2nd.

Song 5: April 8, 1873
The ashtree growing in the corner of the garden was felled. It was lopped first: I heard the sound and looking out and seeing it maimed there came at that moment a great pang and I wished to die and not to see the inscapes of the world destroyed any more.