Rural Arias (2007)
for singing saw (or soprano) and 11 players
Instrumentation: alto flute/flute, oboe/cor anglais, clarinet, bass clarinet, trumpet, bass trombone, piano, string quartet
Dedicated to Ensemble Reconsil on their fifth anniversary
Commissioned by Ensemble Reconsil
Publisher: Bardic Edition
Score BDE 948
Available from
Goodmusic Publishing
Full Score and Parts on hire from
Schott Hire Library
Duration: c. 10 minutes

First performance: Tuesday 2 October 2007; Arnold Schoenberg Center, Vienna; Maria Frodl singing saw, Ensemble Reconsil, Roland Freisitzer conductor
American première: 3 November 2014; Paul Hall, New York; New Juilliard Ensemble, Joel Sachs

Programme note
Rural Arias is a lament for the rural areas of South Africa and the people who live in them, those most affected by devastating problems such as climate change, poverty, and HIV/Aids. This is the real 21st-century South Africa, and the disembodied sound of the singing saw attempts to give voice to those fragile and disempowered communities. The first performance was given on 2 October 2007 in the Arnold Schoenberg Center, Vienna, by Maria Frodl (singing saw) and Ensemble Reconsil conducted by Roland Freisitzer.

“Blake has nothing to prove and plenty to say. His music has an expressive spontaneity, which conveys in quick patterns that life is pitiless and that nothing can be taken for granted. His Rural Arias is not a collection of folk songs but a magnificent, craggy lament for South Africa’s rural population, feeling the devastating effects of climate change, poverty and HIV/AIDS. As he searched out original methods for evoking truth, and in a bid to jolt the listener out of any complacency, Blake used a musical saw to produce a sonorous sadness which reverberated hauntingly.” — Mary Jordan, Business Day, Johannesburg

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