Eternal Light

This episode originally aired on Sunday, August 21, 2011

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Sunday, July 22, 2012

This week, 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 inspiration 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 -- 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 [6]


Listen every week. What a wonderful and important program! It starts my
Sundays and makes my week. Favorites were July 22 Lux Aeterna and the program on liturgical choral music from the 1400's and 1500's. Keep up the great work, Ken!

Aug. 17 2012 02:56 PM
Peter from northern NJ

another wonderful mix, but why no detailed list of the compositions and performers?

Jul. 27 2012 07:55 AM
Meghan from Brooklyn

Amazing program. Positively blew me away last night.

I never knew about this station or your programming. I'll be listening a lot more now.

Thanks Kent!

Jul. 23 2012 11:56 AM
floridahawk from central florida

How about the traditional hymn "When Morning Gilds the Skies"?

Jul. 22 2012 08:57 AM

Wake up every Sunday so I can hear your program in real time. Loved Radiant Light today as well as Von Bingen and Tallis. But found the Ligeti Horrible. Less atonal please.

Jul. 22 2012 08:06 AM
susan rhoades

I loved it and hated it - the piece Stanley Kramer used....fascinating and remarkable.

Jul. 22 2012 07:44 AM

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