Monday, October 08, 2007

Answer to Job premier...

I've written a new work for choir and electronics titled Answer to Job.

It will be premiered amidst works by Beethoven, Ives and Handel by the wonderful conductor Dr. Wyant Morton and the CLU Choir.

They are quite fantastic, I hope you can make it.

Friday, October 19, 8pm
California Lutheran University Choir, Dr. Wyant Morton, Conductor
Held at the California Lutheran University Chapel
60 W. Olsen Road
Thousand Oaks, CA 91360
Click HERE for directions
There is no charge for admission, donations will be accepted.

I am grateful, as always, to Wyant Morton, who has been an incredible support over the last few years since commissioning my Alchemical Mass for the Ojai Camerata. It is an honor and privilege to have him as a friend, and as a musical compatriot.

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I have included the complete program notes below. An edited version will appear in the printed program. I got a little wordy...

FYI, I created the software with Max/MSP. It is a few simple objects used to multiply, transpose, reverse and spatialize the choir (which is divided into eight groups). It is a lot of fun.

If someone wants to see the score, please feel free to email me.

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Anger is a short-lived madness. —Horace

Job is a book that is intriguing to children and adults alike for its wild ride. It reads like a contemporary horror story: A powerful Being (God) allows—even encourages—horrible and vile things to be done to a devout and faithful servant. This Being then turns angry when questioned about it by the servant, and finally tries to make up for it by doing nice things for the servant. In other words: this is a Being who acts unpredictably, sometimes benevolent, sometimes wrathful, sometimes the gentle and listening friend in the coffeehouse, sometimes the braggart in the pub. (“I created Leviathan!”) A great story, but one that has handed a big problem to theologians: This crucial question of “whence evil?” A question that has been fought over by people of faith, but one whose paradoxical answers have provided inspiration for visual artists, musicians, and writers to wrestle with: the idea of God as a complexio-oppositorum, an enantiodromia where the superabundance of good produces its opposite in equal amounts.

My favorite work about the book of Job is C.G. Jung’s Answer to Job (where I get my title from). Dark, mystical, full of the author’s strong feelings for the subject matter—there is no waffling about: Jung says what he feels. He delayed releasing it, as he was “quite conscious of the probable consequences, and what a storm would be raised.” But he was, in his words, “gripped by the urgency and difficulty of the problem and was unable to throw it off. Therefore, I found myself obliged to deal with the whole problem, and I did so in the form of describing a personal experience, carried by subjective emotions. I deliberately chose this form because I wanted to avoid the impression that I had any idea of announcing an ‘eternal truth.’”

I wonder how many other artists and writers have been led to struggle with the Book of Job through a difficult personal experience, as that is what led me to the work in late 1994. Attracted to the edginess and vitriol of Jung’s work, I began work on an oratorio based on his words in earnest. I immersed myself in Job, surrounded myself with William Blake’s illustrations of the book, and read all that I could about Job, from theology to psychology. The work evolved until an entire wall of my studio was covered with graphs, musical notes, literary notes, illustrations et al. As I buried myself in this story of the dark side of God, I grew darker and more isolated. I also felt that this was a personally important work that must be finished. The sketches grew, the composition was going to be around two hours long involving choir, electronics and more. Almost a year into the work, further difficulties arose in my life that pushed me further into the composition. I stopped interacting as much with the outside world, except to work as little as possible to make ends meet, stopped applying for grants, slowed down my performance schedule, stopped visiting people but for a few friends, basically was obsessed with the story. And angry. Really angry.

At the same time, I was using the I Ching as a device for brainstorming. John Cage and others had before me, so nothing new there. One day at my studio, on pause from composing, I received hexagram 29 (no changing lines) several times in a row. Statistically, this is extremely anomalous. Add to that the contents of the hexagram it was startling. A classic reading would call 29 “The Pit” or, “The Abyss.” And would say something like: “A dark hour. Don’t linger. A time of unavoidable danger.” Or in mid 20th century non-classic lingo: “Danger, Will Robinson! Danger!” It was indeed a personally dark hour, and I was indeed lingering. But the hexagram is not all bad; it promises if you are sincere, you will have success. Not being one for oracles, I ignored the I Ching. Until I received hexagram 29 (no changing lines) again the next day. It was like a slap in the face, an intervention by a book. I was not sincere, I was angry and obsessed. I took down my charts and all, folded them up, and put them in a file cabinet. I totally stopped working on the project. And it felt good to put it away. Although the idea for the work remained in the back of my mind, I was no longer acting on it.

Recently, in 2006, I wanted to create a new choral work, so I do what I always do: go through my bookshelf, files, poke around and look for something interesting. I found my copy of Jung’s Answer to Job with its old notes in the margin. Which led me to my files. I decided to tackle Job again, but from a slightly different perspective: I would presume the audience knew the story, and focus only on the content of Job confronting God, and God’s reaction. But I would also add to Job’s words, words from Tertullian, Horace, Psalms, Ecclesiastes, Jeremiah, and Isaiah. I would treat it as an excerpt from a larger work, keep it around fifteen minutes, and try to enjoy wrestling with the psychology of the religious contents of the confrontation, not the minute details of the tragedy. I did enjoy it. What remains, is a short work, Job talking to God, and God responding. I hope you enjoy it as well.

1 comment:

Heidi said...

Wow. Stirring.