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ABOUT OLA GJEILOs SUNRISE: SYMPHONIC MASS FOR CHOIR AND STRING ORCHESTRA

By Kira Zeeman Rugen

Atfirstlisten,themusicofOlaGjeilo(pronouncedYaylo)comesacrossas agreeabletotheear:simple,straightforward,easilyevokingbeautifulemotions.On thesecondorthirdlisten,thecomplexityandmultipledimensionsofhiswriting unfold.Thedensityofthevariouscompositionalelementsjumpsoutofthe framework.Philosophically,Gjeiloseemstohaveadesiretocreateanatmosphere inwhichthelistenercanexperiencemusicthatisdirectandpleasing. Thereisntanythingwrongwithdissonance,asconflictanddiscordisanatural partoflifeandnecessaryforallpositivedevelopmentandmaturation.Andin mostareasofsociety,conflictissomethingweverymuchwanttoresolve.Butina greatdealofavantgardeart,thegoalseemstobetostayintheconflictitself, whichtomebecomesawayofjustinflictingthelistenerswithourownneurosis. Dissonanceandhighchromaticismisimportanttoexplore;theModernistswere bravetodelveintopartsofthehumanpsychethataredarkandedgy,butIdo thinktheygotsomewhatstuckinthat.Alotofartpushedaudiencesawayfor sometime.Ithinkpeoplenaturallyandinstinctivelywanttoexperience transcendence,resolutionandthefeelingofredemption,joyandpeacethatthe resolvingofdiscordcanyield. Sunrise:SymphonicMassforChoirandStringOrchestrawascommissionedin 2007bythecombinedMajorstuaandNovachamberchoirs.Theworldpremire tookplaceonNovember2,2008inOslo,andincludeda24piecestringorchestra, conductedbyToreErikMohn. WhenapproachedforthiscommissionbyMr.Mohn,OlaGjeiloalreadyhada strongdesiretocomposeaMass.InthecaseoftheSunrise,fromtheinitialpointof conception,theforcesathisdisposalwerethegreatestsourceofinspiration.Oneof hispreferredsonoritiesisthecombinationofchoirandorchestra,andwiththat palateinmind,theinspirationforSunrisecameeasily. Text Gjeiloconsidershimselfasymphoniccomposerinthatheoftenaimsfora lush,orchestralsound,howeversmalltheperformingensemblesare.Inchoral music,thisalsomeansthatthemusicisultimatelymoreimportanttohimthanthe text.However,heapproacheshiscraftfromaspiritualperspectiveandwantsto shareuniversalandhumanisticexperiencesintherealmofhismusic.Oneneedsto looknofurtherthanthenamesofeachindividualmovementforanillustrationof howspiritualityplaysaroleinthework.ThetextcomesfromtheOrdinaryofthe Mass:KyrieTheSpheres,GloriaSunrise,CredoTheCity,Sanctus&AgnusDei Identity&TheGround.WhileGjeilosetthemeaningoftheLatintextrespectfully andobservesthetraditionsthatmassesareexpectedtoexhibit,hisoverallvision forthepiecelieswithinthetitlesofthework,onlylooselyrelatedtothemeaningof theLatin.Insodoing,herevealsastructureoutsideofthetext;ametaphysical journeyfromtheheavenstoearth.TheintentandthestoryinhisMassare expressedthroughthewayinwhichthemusiccomesacrosssonically. 2

TheSpheresKyrie Gjeilohasatalentforcreatingauralpicturesandthereisavisualcomponent tothemusichewrites.InthecaseoftheKyrie,GjeilonameditTheSpheres.That titleisrepresentedinthewayheevokesanatmospherethatsoundslikefloatingin space,indeepsilence,betweenstarsandplanets. Inthebeginning,usingexpressiveswells,thetextureofeachoverlapping chordinchesinandfadesaway,onlytoallowthenextchordtocrescendo,eachtime anewsyllableisaddedtotheline.Eventuallyninemeasuresintothework,the syllableeissung,tofinallyfinishthefirstcompleteutteranceofthewordKyrie. Thefollowingexcerptisanexampleofthedovetailingtechniqueinthefirst movement,usingonlytwoofthevocalandstringparts: Figure1: Inthisdrawnoutapproachofthefirsttwentytwobars,themostimportant, andasGjeiloputsit,maintheme,oftheMassisintroduced.

Theme1: Theme1appearsatseveralpointsintheMassandbecomesaunifying element.Thereisasenseofstasisandcalmatthemidpointinthemovementuntil thestringscomeinwiththesecondunifyingthemeofthemass:asimpleascending scale.Theme2,theascendingminorscale,isrepeatedtwice,expandinginenergyto adoubleforte. Theme2: 3

ThetexturethenreturnstoTheme1,butthistimemoreclearlyheardasthe fallingminorthirdsarerepresentedasquarternotes.Whenthequarternote Theme1appearsatm.84,itsoundsasifinsteadofjustfloatingalong,themelodyis nowflyingataquickerpace.ThismovementbeginstheMassasabeautifuland sacredmeditation:aspiritualandcontemplativejourney. SunriseGloria Highstringsonaminimalisticlikearpeggiatedaccompanimentsetthescene fromtheverybeginningofthismovement.Gjeilothinksofthismusicasa symphonic,metaphoricalsunrise.Itbeginsquietly,slowlygrowingintoa spectacularandjoyfulsection.ThestringsintroduceTheme3inm.3,whichisthen repeatedbythevoicesinm.51. Theme3: Gjeiloimaginesthislineasangelssingingasubtle,dreamlikeincantation.As theopeningsectionbuildsandgrows,GjeilotakesTheme1inm.71fromthefirst movementandinvertsitasananswertoTheme3. InvertionofTheme1:

Atm.93,thetoneabruptlychangestoahappier,sprightlyandjoyousone. Thestringstakeupsixteenthnoteaccentedmotivicfeatures,incontrasttothe choirsslower,richerascendingmelodyline.Thistheme,Theme4,isfoundatm.96, andagainatm.150. Theme4:

Atm.127,abridgelikesectionoccursonthetextDomineDeus,Rex Caelestis.TherisingscaleofTheme2appearsonceagainwithintheinnervoices, addingagreatdealoftensiontotheline.Thehomophonicchordsstackdiatonically buttherisingscaleprovidesaclashofdissonancethatemphasizesaregaland powerfulmoment. Onceagaintheminimalistlikechordsmakeanappearanceatm.185and Theme3sounds.Thistimehowever,thealtossingaloweroctaveandthereisa sensethatthemusicisfurtherandfurtherawayfromthatsunrise,whichbeganthe piece.Asoloviolindoublesthemelody,atexturethatforeshadowswhatwillbe heardagaininIdentity&TheGround(Sanctus&AgnusDei). AlthoughGjeilowouldnotcomparehismusicorhiscompositional philosophywiththatofBenjaminBritten,hedidfindBrittensWarRequiemquite influentialinthathewasparticularlyattractedtothewayinwhichBrittenresolved hisKyrie,DiesIraeandtheInParadisumwithasomber,andevocativeamen section.Gjeiloborrowedthisapproachwithhisamenstoclosethismovement,as wellasattheendoftheworkattheDonaNobisportionofthetext. TheCityCredo TheCityisthemostchallengingofthemovementsinGjeilosMassbecauseof itsdrivingandrelentlessconstruction,anditpossessesthemostcontrastwithina movement.GjeilofeltthattheCredotexthadtobetreatedwithagreatdealof detail.Hesaysthatthistextisthemostpowerfulandassuredtextinthemass.I believeisastrongstatement.ThemovementTheCitybeginswithstacattiand accentedsixteenthnotesinadrivenline,akintothebustleandactivityonewould experienceinalargecity. Theopeningchorallinebeginswiththemen,alowerregisterinaustere contrasttothebeginningofthepreviousmovement.Themusic,nowinthekeyof Dminor,isnolongerangelicandfloating,butratherheavy,darkerandrelentless. Newthematicmaterialappearsinanascendingdirection. Theme5: GjeilocontinuestoexpanduponTheme5andthedrivingstring16thnotes untilm.45.AtthatpointthesopranosandaltosenterwiththeTheme6: Theme6: 5

Theme6isstillaccompaniedwiththerelentlessstringpart,butthevoices beginsimply.Asthemusiccontinues,Theme6isaugmentedwithheavierand chromaticharmonies,andatm.33itbreaksoutintoSSAATTBBdivisi. Twoimportantsectionsofthismovementoccursinmm.68119.Theyare twoverydifferentreturnstoTheme1fromthefirstmovementTheSpheres,tying theentireworktogether. Measure148bringsbackTheme5,butthistimethestringsareheavierwith tremoloswrittenatop16thnotes,fillingeverygapinthemusic.Afteracrescendo, thereisagiantpausewrittenintothemusic,followedbyaspectacularclimaxofnot onlythismovement,butoftheentirework.(Whiletherearetechnicallytwo movementsafterTheCity,Gjeiloconnectedthemasasinglemovement,though separatedtextually.Thetwolastmovements,IdentityandTheGround,work throughelementsofresolution.So,inthemethodofdramaticconstruction,the climaxoccursduringTheCity,twomovementsbeforetheendofthework.) GjeilobeginsthisclimacticsectionbyonceagainrevisitingtheTheme1from thefirstmovement,butthistime,heaugmentsthepulsesoeachnoteisawhole noteinlength.Underneath,thestringsprovideafast,unforgiving,andrelentless accompaniment.Thelongheldaugmentedlinesofthechoirfloatwithabalanceof energyagainstthefuryofthestrings. Thestringwritingisthemostdifficultpartinthismovement.Itis dense,filledwithtremolo,fastmovinglines,evershiftingkeysandaccidentals. IdentitySanctus IntheSanctus,GjeilobringstheexactmaterialfromtheKyrieforward.The onlydifferencesbetweentherespectivesectionswithinKyrieandtheSanctusare thetextandtheuseofadelicate,warmcoloredviolinsoloabovethechoralline. AccordingtoGjeilo,thesoloviolinsymbolizestheindividualandtheemergenceofa consciousself;thusthismovementiscalledIdentity.Gjeilosetsouttocomposea workthatisevocativeandultimatelyuplifting,andhepulledfromthefilmgenreto makehispoint.ThepathosthatIdentitycreatesisyearning,searching,andacutely pensive.ThemassbeginsinthestarsduringtheKyrie,andthenintheSanctus,it circlesbacktothesamematerialtosymbolizetheindividual.Itisasifitlooks towardsthestars,thenmirrorswhatitsees,andonlynowisselfaware. TheGroundPleniSuntCoeli/AgnusDei TheGroundisdifferentthananyotherpartoftheSunriseMass.Gjeilodefines itwiththetermsresolution,releaseandrelief.Afterallthetensionanddark crevicesthatthemusichasvisitedinthework,TheGroundistheplaceofabsolute peace,tranquilityandrelief.Itisalsothepointatwhichonefeelsthatonehas arrivedandisfinallygrounded.Nolongeristhemusicfloatinginthespheres, risingwiththesun,bustlinginthecity,ordiscoveringtheself.Themusicnow depictsbeingonewithhumanityandtheEarth;hereinlaysasenseofawarenessof everythinggroundedandreal.Gjeiloleavesthelistenerfeelingreflectiveby completingthejourneyatadeeperplane,havingheardtheentirework.Gjeilosays: 6

ThemusicoftheSunriseMassgoesfromdarkanddreamlike,tomore emotionalanddramatic,andeventuallywarmandgrounded.Itsimportantto methatthereisapositiveevolutioninartisticexpressions,tomoveeverything forward.Thatithasthecapacitytohelpbringusdeeperintoourselvesrather thantheotherway.Ireallydothinkthat'sthemainpointofart.Idon'tknowif Iinanywayamoneofthem,butIthinktrueartistshavetheabilitytoshare somethingveryimportant;toexpressadeeperconnectionwithsomething sacred;soul,orGod,ornature,orwhateverweperceiveitas,throughart.And Ialwaysbelievedthatgiftshouldbeusedtoupliftandremindourselvesofwho wereallyareandwhatstrulyimportantinourlives,whateverthatmaybe. Gjeilodrawsfromoldmusiconceagain,andinhonoringJ.S.Bachhe culminateshisworkwithwhathelabelstheChorale.Itisaverysimple homophonicpiecethatalsoinspiredaseparatepiece(publishedbyWalton Music/HalLeonardasTheGround,forSATBchoir,pianoandoptionalstring quartet). Thestringscreateawarmsonorityanddoublethechoirpart,givingasense ofunity.Thesongmovesalonggentlyuntilm.78whenthemelodyisraisedan octavehigherandthedynamicextendstoadoubleforte,asthestatementand climaxisupliftedinamomentofglory. TheworkthengentlycomestoacloseintoaquietDonaNobissection.Again, GjeiloechoestheearnestandprofoundideasfromBenjaminBrittensWarRequiem inaslowamenlikesegment.TheworkendswithanascendingcadenceinEflat major,hopefulandexpansive;acompleteresolution. SunriseSummary TravelingfrombeginningtoendaurallythroughOlaGjeilosSunrise,one couldexperiencethefullmetaphoricaljourneyfromthestarryHeaventoEarth, fromundifferentiateddarknesstosolid,warmlife,evolvingspirituallyasahuman. Gjeilodoesn'tbelieveinthevalueofsufferinginitself,withoutredemptionora deepercompassionthattranscendsthesuffering.ButGjeilo'sMasscertainlycreates abeautifuljourneythatfrombeginningtoendsuggestssadness,pain,chaos,drama andconflict.TheessenceoftheMassincludesnotonlythedarkpartsofthehuman psyche,butalsotheentirespectrumofhumanemotion.Gjeilofirmlybelieveshis Sunrisemassisajourneyinwhich,Theself,havingexperiencedeachmovementin thework,nowhastheperspectiveandunderstandingtopeacefullycontain everythingithasgonethrough.