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Scenes from Crow
(for amplified mixed ensemble, tape and live electronics)

Scenes from Crow is inextricably linked to the 1970 edition of Crow – from the Life and Songs of the Crow by Ted Hughes. However, the influences on the music extend beyond the Crow sequence toward the broader issues that have dominated Hughes’s poetry since his first collection of 1957 – The Hawk in the Rain. These include his interest in primal themes – nature, war, sex and death – and his methods of working through them. Hughes attempts to address the failure of the modern, technological world by using the emblem of the crow. A crow is an intelligent, widely distributed and omnivorous bird. It is black, solitary, tough and non-musical. It is a carrion-eater, and so is dependent upon death and destruction. All these attributes are presented in Hughes’s Crow, but so too are visions of post-nuclear aftermath, memories of war, and distortions of ‘grand narratives’, which Hughes sees as having shaped the condition of contemporary life. Crow is also a prankster, and in this sense he gives the poetry a ‘carnivalesque’ quality. In fact, the raven is a famous trickster character in the mythologies of the North American Indians and the Tlingit of Alaska. The trickster is a necessary component of these societies because he acts as a satirical self-regulator. In this sense, Hughes's Crow is a modern version of the trickster, one admirably suited for the extremities of the 20 th century and the collapse of the Judeo-Christian era. Hence all distortions of familiar Biblical texts and other mythological grand narratives created by Crow's tinkerings and failings. If Crow is the modern era's self-regulator, he is also a mirror of man's consciousness at its most bleak.

Artwork by Johannes Heisig 
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