Eternal Light

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Sunday, March 27, 2011

This week on the Choral Mix, Kent Tritle explores the depiction of both life and light within choral compositions. Among the highlights is György Ligeti's Lux Aeterna or Everlasting Light.

The text for Lux Aeterna comes from the Latin mass for the dead. Scored for sixteen singers, the piece is translucent in texture and a superb example of text painting. Ligeti said the following about his work: "(Lux Aeterna) represented for me an experiment with harmonic Klangfarben (tone color) music, by which I broke with my preceding style of chromatic tone-clusters."

Ligeti's harmonies are unquestionably modern, but a much older influence is present, like that of composer, organist and choirmaster Johannes Ockeghem (1410–1497). Ligeti's writing and Ockeghem's canons for multiple voices both involve imitation, and are texturally complex. In Ockeghem's prolation canons, the voices sing the same melody at different speeds. Ligeti uses this technique, having each voice perform different subdivisions of the same beat, all while staggering their entrances. This creates a polyphonic texture that Ligeti describes as "so thickly woven that the individual voices become indistinguishable and only the resulting harmonies, blending seamlessly into one another, can be clearly perceived."

One of the notable colors used by Ligeti are the basses in their tender falsetto voices singing "Let eternal light shine on them, Lord, as with your saints in eternity, because you are merciful."
As we explore the theme of eternal light, we also hear works by Hildegarde von Bingen, Rautavaara, Tallis and Tchaikovsky, among others.   
What piece of choral music do you feel best depicts life or light?

Comments [9]

Cape Sop from Massachusetts

Frank Martin "Mass for Double Choir"

Mar. 28 2011 03:21 PM
Susan Gutterman from Manhattan

Thank you! I'm listening right now.

Mar. 28 2011 12:14 PM

We just posted the audio for this episode. Sorry for the delay and enjoy!

Mar. 28 2011 11:22 AM
Michael Meltzer

Beautiful program from stem to stern. As for actually describing "light" or what it feels like to a blind person, I think the Haydn and the Faure would be far and away the most useful.

Mar. 28 2011 03:21 AM
Marilyn Kneeland

Yes, indeed, there has been no Listen or Add function button for either the 3/20 or 3/27 programs. WQXR, please fix. Kent, I miss you! -- Marilyn, in Fla.

Mar. 28 2011 12:27 AM
Susan Gutterman from Manhattan

Just as in Germany, on our computer in NYC there has been no Listen function for the past two weeks. I'm heartbroken -- seven am is awfully early for me & I have loved listening to Choral Mix later in the morning. Please bring the listening function back. (PS -- we made a contribution in your Feb fund drive.)

Mar. 27 2011 01:47 PM
dk from Germany

I usually listen to this program in the early afternoon Central European Time (I live in Germany) and I use the recorded version, obviously. I noticed the past two weeks now, there is no "Listen" function available. What's up?
Please let me and your other listeners know..


Mar. 27 2011 10:37 AM
Tom Bolger from Cragsmoor New York

Kent what was the piece of Fiore's music you played at Jacqui Kennedys funeral? By the way you sound terrific there in the woods, every Sunday, regards, Tom

Mar. 27 2011 08:37 AM
geoffrey from new jersey

Carleton College (Northfield, Minnesota)performed Peter Maxwell Davies's "Solstice of Light" in the early 1980's. It is not a work in the general canon of pieces about light; it is very difficult, especially the organ and tenor solo parts.

Mar. 27 2011 08:20 AM

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