Fragments of Experience

About the project

Inspired by William Blake’s Songs of ExperienceFragments of Experience is a short film with original music and cutting edge AI animation by Mark Bowler alongside 2D animation by Harrison Fleming, Blake’s own imagery and live performance footage.  

The project is centred around Blake’s poems The Fly, The Sick Rose and The Voice of the Ancient Bard with excerpts from Introduction to Songs of Experience and Earth’s Answer, carefully woven to create a strong ecological metanarrative — Blake’s warning cry to us across the centuries.

The Fly challenges us to question our relationship with nature, The Sick Rose presents themes of decay and corruption, and finally we are called to action in The Voice of the Ancient Bard.

Mark composed original music for Fragments of Experience for a soprano and a five-piece chamber ensemble, later adding digitally manipulated music coupled with a contemporary delivery of Blake’s poetry by British-Nigerian actor Abayomi Oniyide.

Drawing from William Blake’s proto-environmentalism, work on Fragments of Experience began during the pandemic and the consequent lockdowns. Created as a work of reflection on the human condition, our relationship with nature and a need for radical change, Fragments of Experience draws inspiration from Blake’s unrelenting belief in the power of nature and calls us to observe, reflect and act against the existential threats humanity currently faces.

Marianna Suri and Mark Bowler began discussing the creation of a William Blake song cycle in 2018. After a three-year hiatus the idea was revisited in 2021. Blake’s Songs of Experience rang particularly true through the scope of the pandemic. In search of a performance outlet that would be accessible to anyone, at any time, a delivery of a digital work seemed particularly relevant. Production company Positive Note with its director Dan Norman were recruited to help produce the work in 2021. In early 2022 the project received funding from Arts Council England.

A research and development period took place in Oxford in April of 2022 and after a compositional phase in the Spring of 2022, the music was recorded in July of 2022 with a film crew in tow. Animator Harrison Fleming joined the team in December 2022 to deliver narrative driven 2D animation for The Fly and The Sick Rose. 

In early 2023, AI tools became available that have since revolutionised the world of digital animation. Mark embraced this new technology and has brought his cutting edge promptography skills to the film.

Fragments of Experience had its premiere on YouTube on Friday 10th November 2023. The film had been watched over one thousand times by the end of the weekend.

Stream the album here

Support the project on Bandcamp here

Duration: c. 18 minutes

Musical forces: Pierrot ensemble with soprano, conducted by Olivia Clarke
Soprano – Marianna Suri
Flute – Helen Vidovich
Clarinet and bass clarinet – Raymond Brien
Piano – Panaretos Kyriatzidis
Violin – Chihiro Ono
Cello – Valerie Welbanks
Spoken voice – Abayomi Oniyide

The film is produced and directed by Dan Norman of Positive Note, in collaboration with Mark Bowler and One Glass Eye Records.

Fragments of Experience is supported by Arts Council England, The Maria Björnson Foundation, The Blake Society, Blakefest, and the Oxford International Song Festival (formerly Oxford Lieder).

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