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Te Deum: A Song In Praise of Wisdom

Sem. John Paul D. Olea

Te Deum Laudamus is a commissioned work for the opening of this years Philosophy and Communication
Festival 2016 written for chorus, string ensemble and pipe organ. It is a song which celebrates the beauty of
Wisdom; a musical opus in praise for the gift of Philosophy. It portrays an image of the whole creation proclaiming
the majesty and glory of God encapsulated in the first three words of the ancient Ambrosian Hymn.

Three languages are used in this piece: Latin, Greek and English. All verses, 1 to 4, are taken from the Book
of Job, Exodus, and Revelation except for the latin phrase Te Deum laudamus and Cogitor ergo sum (I was
thought, therefore I exist) from the theme of PhiloComm 2016.

The piece opens with three rhetorical questions from the Book of Job (Chapter 38). It captures the three
major inquiries of man: the earth, the heavens and the afterlife. Now it is a reverse, God himself interrogates man.
The first verse Where were you when I founded the earth? is carried by a sustained dissonant chord which evokes
images of chaos. A chordal shift happens on the word earth giving the listener a vision of the creation.

The second verse, Have you tied cords to the Pleiades, or loosened the bonds of Orion? evokes awe on
the beauty of the heavenly bodies particularly Orion and Pleaides. By using the Greek text I recall the ancient
philosophers who are fascinated with the cosmos. Here, the melody of the violin appears to wander like the eyes
gazing on the night sky while luminous chords gives it an iridescent ambiance. Fittingly, this Chord of Light (interval
of 9th) is an allusion to Quantum Physics claim that Light is the force holding the entire universe.

The third verse Have the gates of death been shown to you? Or have you seen the gates of darkness? is
set on an ominous chord. This dark dissonances depicts a terrifying portrait of the gates of Hades. The note on the
word darkness harrows down to silence and prepares the listener for the next movement.

The refrain Te Deum laudamus, clothed in the majesty of F major, becomes the response, the Credo of Job
which represents the people of God. It is a simple chant of submission, humility and sweet surrender as if to say, as
in the lips of the psalmist, Oh, what is man that you should be mindful of him?

I am the Alpha and the Omega from the Book of Revelation and I am the great I Am from Exodus
becomes the zenith of the entire movement. To put emphasis and brighter imagery on these verses I shifted from
the minor key to a major one. Keeping in mind the grandeur of the Apocalypse, the string and the organ section
sets the mood as John would have felt and witnessed it and I saw heaven opened and behold

Te Deum is inspired by the simplicity and mysticism of Gregorian chant. The sacred text is given pride of
place and an appropriate melody is woven to them to convey transcendent truths and images which, I believe,
music has the power to communicate.

Philosophy and music combined is a life-changing art. A calisthenics that can do us good holistically, body
and soul. It can open our eyes gracefully to see things beyond this present conditions and to comprehend reality
and experiences with a sound mind ever more closely. We are persons created because of love and our grateful
hearts response to it, our joyful song every second of our lives, in everything that we do filled with love and in
praise of that great Wisdom is Cogitor ergo sum! Te Deum laudamus! - I am thought, therefore I exist! O God, we
praise you!