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Symphony I (David)

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James M. David

James M David


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Subtitle: Codex Gigas


General Info

Year: 2019
Duration: c. 27:00
Difficulty: VI (see Ratings for explanation)
Publisher: Unknown
Cost: Score and Parts – Available May 2021


Movements

1. Light After Darkness – “post tenebras lux…”
2. Herman, the Recluse – “Hermann Inclusus”
3. The Great Red Dragon – “Draco Magnus Rufus”
4. The Holy City - “Sanctam Civitatem”


Instrumentation

(Needed, please join the WRP if you can help.)


Errata

None discovered thus far.


Program Notes

The second decade of the 21st century has brought forth some of humanity's greatest achievements in technology and science, but has paradoxically seen a disturbing rise in misinformation and paranoia. My first symphony attempts to deal with my own frustrations and fears about our current times through the lens of a variety of masterworks from the past.

The symphony draws inspiration from the 13th century medieval text also titled Codex Gigas which was completed in a Bohemian monastery in the modern-day Czech Republic. Most significantly, this monastery was destroyed during the Hussite Revolution of the 15th century, which led to a long history of the work being moved and reacquired many times since its initial creation. Of particular note to my work are the large illustrations included in the text, which will serve as the basis of two of the movements. Most famously are full-page illustrations of the devil and the City of Heaven. Compositional techniques from the time period, including isorhythm and organum harmonizations, will be utilized throughout.

The Codex Gigas also has a fascinating tangential connection to contemporary wind band music through Czech-American composer Karel Husa. Music for Prague 1968, as is well-known, was based in part on medieval chant from Bohemia during the Hussite Revolution which ties it directly to the history of the Codex Gigas. The final movement will quote the chant Ye Who Are Warriors of Our God as part of its depiction of the City of Heaven. Husa's own frustrations and fears were expressed in his 1970 work Apotheosis of this Earth and my symphony will hopefully recall some of this energy and intensity as well. Ultimately, the symphony should be seen as a celebration of knowledge, reason, and intellect as we struggle to overcome our baser instincts and prejudices.

I. Light After Darkness – “post tenebras lux…” The first movement is built on the idea of the church as the defender of "the light of knowledge" during the long darkness of the medieval era. Bells sounding out from the gloom will become an important motive in the rest of the symphony. The form of the movement will be built on the geometric and mathematical proportions associated with medieval sacred architecture.

II. Herman, the Recluse – “Hermann Inclusus”. The second movement deals with the fascinating figure surrounding the Codex Gigas, Herman the Recluse, who is referenced as the most likely primary author. Although the exact origins of the book may never be known, most scholars point to a single scribe who labored without ceasing for nearly thirty years to create the gigantic work. This adagio movement will depict the character of the scribe through medieval contrapuntal techniques as well as postmodern reinterpretations of such techniques by Ligeti and Pärt.

III. The Great Red Dragon – “Draco Magnus Rufus”. The Codex Gigas has often been called "The Devil's Bible" for the huge illustration of the "devil" found on plate 290r in the work. In the symphony, the devil will be shown as a brutal and intense "infernal dance" with references to the many earlier 20th-century works inspired by folk traditions throughout Europe (including Janáček, Stravinsky, Bartók, Lutoslawski, and others). The title references a passage from the book of Revelation. This movement depicts the violence and anger that is caused by fear and ignorance, a problem that is sadly still common in the present.

IV. The Holy City - “Sanctam Civitatem”. The final movement depicts the "City of Heaven," which is another full-page illustration that faces the more well-known "devil." Here, the Hussite Hymn will be stated in a massive finale that also incorporates harmonies and timbres from Messiaen's Colors of the Celestial City. Melodic motives from the prior movements will be combined into a complex contrapuntal tapestry.

- Program Note by composer


Commercial Discography


Media


State Ratings

None discovered thus far.


Performances

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Works for Winds by this Composer

Adaptable Music


All Wind Works


Resources