FOUR RITUALS FOR PERCUSSION QUINTET, CHOIR AND AUDIENCE. Commissioned by NEXUS with funds from the Laidlaw Foundation. 23 -30 minutes. 2004. Titles of Individual movements: I. Lazarus. II. The Fountain of Bethesda. III Water Turning Into Wine. IV. Agnus Dei. Score and parts available through PROMETHEAN EDITIONS.

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Commissioned by the renown percussion ensemble NEXUS with funds from the Laidlaw Foundation (Canada), Four Rituals for Percussion Quintet, Chorus and Audience was completed in the spring of 2004 for a premiere performance in December of that year. When the members of NEXUS, who are also colleagues at the Faculty of Music, University of Toronto, asked me to create a new work for them, I resolved to incorporate in the piece the qualities that, in addition to their brilliant musicianship, make this group unique in the world of classical music: their ability to improvise, their vast experience with a number of world music cultures and their equally vast collection of percussive instruments from all over the world.

In addition to musically exploring the qualities that make NEXUS unique as musicians, I naturally felt compelled to explore my own interests which are related to early Christian spirituality and my ever growing desire to communicate with other people through music as deeply as I am capable of. The titles of the individual rituals referring to three miracles by Jesus of Nazareth and His Passion as recorded in the Bible and the means by which community-based amateur choirs and the audience as a whole are engaged in it bears witness to these interests. The title of the work itself implies a kind of musical communication that is not one sided but is based on feedback from the audience. For example, the actual length of the first movement is not predetermined but depends entirely on the level of audience engagement and participation. Throughout the course of the work, the audience is actively encouraged by the percussionists and the choir to take part in this process of exchange and participation. The two inner movements do not engage the audience or the choir directly, but their structure and feel still adhere more to the concept of ritual than to that of a piece of concert music.

While the first three rituals address most of the conditions that I set out to satisfy precompositionally, the last ritual, Agnus Dei, is an expression of faith alone. It was one of those few instances that the entire music presented itself to me in a dream. All the essential elements of the music were in place about an hour later and the working out the finer details was completed during the ensuing days. Pop and New Age sounding, Agnus Dei is indicative of my new approach to the question of compositional style, and musical genre in general, according to which the only important thing in composition is that it points towards the concept of the fatherhood/motherhood of God and the brotherhood/sisterhood of human beings. Compared to this, considerations and biases about style and musical material are truly immaterial.


Premiere performance: December 10, 2004 by NEXUS. Faculty Artists Concerts. Walter Hall, Faculty of Music, University of Toronto. Toronto. ON.


 

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