Duration: 12 minutes
Brussels Philharmonic, Franck Ollu conducting
[Tactus] Young Composers Forum, 2015
Based on the dramatic creation story outlined in the Book of Genesis in the Bible, “Genesis” is a one movement work for orchestra that was inspired by the seven days of creation according to the Bible. Within the work, there are several subdivisions and themes that allude to the various processes that occur during creation.
I – Formlessness and Chaos
“Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters”. (Gen 1:2) The work opens with a big bang with flaring brass, woodwinds, and strings in their extreme registers. Chaotic and loud, this section dies down as a harmonic progression is introduced, representing the presence of the Trinity. The strings, woodwinds, and brass take turns to present the recurring harmonic idea which consist of the chords D maj, Bb maj, G maj, E maj, Bb maj, F# maj, Eb maj, and C maj presented in this order.
II – Day and Night
“And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.’…And there was evening, and there was morning – the first day.” (Gen 1:3-5) While ethereal at first, this light grows into a brilliant brass fanfare, heralding the first day. The nocturne theme is introduced and returns at the end of a day to signal the end and beginning of a chapter. Harp, piano, glockenspiel, and the vibraphone create a slow shimmering texture while a melody based on the hymn tune “Lasst uns erfreuen” (1906) is played on the English Horn.
III – Separation of the Vaults
“So God made the expanse and separated the water under the expanse from the water above it. And it was so.” (Gen 1:7) From the end of the first day comes the dramatic separation of the sky and sea, represented here by the ascending and descending 5ths that move in contrary motion.
IV – Dry Land; Plants Bearing Seeds
“Then God said, ‘Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.’ And it was so.” (Gen 1:11) The following section depicts the creation of plants and the appearance of land. I use the first three chords from the harmonic progression as a head motif which forms the ‘land’, while pizzicato strings, muted harp, piano, and woodblock gradually enter this bright and sunny musical episode.
V – Stars, Sun, and Moon; Orbits
In the fourth day, God made the greater and lesser lights in the sky to “govern the day and the night, and to separate the light from darkness”. (Gen 1:18) This section features various instrumental groups moving in tandem with each other in different pulses, creating a musical metaphor for the orbiting patterns of various astrological bodies in the sky. A brief nocturne at mm. 185 signals the end of the fourth day.
VI – Creatures of the Sea and Sky
“And God said, ‘Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky.” (Gen 1:20) While there is no mention of specific animals, the creation story tells us of living creatures in the sea and sky. The section features the three orchestral trombones with some extended effects to mimic quirky sea animals. Birds are conjured with fluttering woodwinds accompanied by the harp and piano.
VII – Mankind; Glorious Dance of the Earth
“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” (Gen 1:26) The grand finale of this creation account occurs on the sixth day, with the creation of God’s crowning achievement, mankind. With this passage of scripture in mind, I imagined the percussion section (featuring tom-toms, timpani and bongos) as primitive man, wielding its pulse over the entire orchestra. This section ends with a loud and intense dance with the full ensemble, while the harmonic progression makes its final appearance with the brass section.
VIII – The Seventh Day; Nocturne
“By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.” Shimmering textures from the harp and pitched percussion bring the nocturnal theme back before ending the piece.
Nov 25, 2015 – Brussels Philharmonic, Flagey Studio 4, Brussels, Belgium (closed reading)
Feb 3, 2017 – Florida State University Symphony, Ruby Diamond Hall, Tallahassee, USA
Awards and Recognition:
Winner, 2016 SOCAN Foundation Young Composers’ Awards Sir Ernest MacMillan Prize
Official Selection: 2017 Florida State University New Music Festival
Official Selection: 2015 [Tactus`] Young Composers’ Forum, Belgium