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Henry Darger Inspired Music

June 3, 2008
Henry Darger, Sacred Heart: Explosion (part one of diptych)

From our friends at NPR:

I thought you might be interested in these upcoming concerts by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (beginning June 5) featuring the Chicago premiere of an orchestral piece by 33-year-old composer Jefferson Friedman, called Sacred Heart: Explosion. The piece is based on a painting by “outsider” or “visionary” artist Henry Darger, who lived in Chicago (1892-1973).

About Henry Darger from Mr. Friedman:

Henry Darger—orphan, janitor, recluse, devout Christian, lived most of his adult life in a small, one-room apartment on the north side of Chicago. He seldom spoke to anyone, and left his room only to go to church, to his job, or on frequent long walks. When he became too frail to walk up the stairs to his apartment, he asked his landlord, Nathan Lerner, to find him a place in an old-age home, where he spent the last few months of his life.

After Darger had been moved, Lerner went up to the apartment to clean it out. Among the hundreds of things he found strewn about the room were stacks of old magazines, many empty Pepto Bismol bottles, countless balls of twine which Darger himself had twisted together, a meticulous daily weather journal dating back decades, and a typewritten, single-spaced, epic novel running more than 15,000 pages entitled The story of the Vivian Girls, in what is Known as the Realms of the Unreal, of the Glandeco-Angelinnian War Storm, Caused by the Child Slave Rebellion.

The epic recounts, often in graphic detail, a great war on a distant planet between its children and the evil men who kidnap them, force them into child slavery, and murder them. To the children’s rescue come the Vivian Girls, seven sisters from the Christian nation of Abiennia, who are aided by good soldiers and a race of dragons Darger called Blengins. Along with this epic, Lerner found hundreds of giant scroll paintings, some of them four feet high and ten feet long, depicting scenes from the Realms of the Unreal.

This piece is based on one of those paintings.


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