Nickitas Demos

Behind The Blue Sky



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    Behind The Blue Sky (excerpt)

Behind The Blue Sky (2001)

Nickitas Demos

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Duration: 9'

2008 Coups de Vents Competition (France) - Quarter Finalist 

Audio streaming of the entire piece available on SoundCloud.

This piece is the answer to a question posed to me by my son when he was five years old. As we were travelling one sunny afternoon in the car, he grew silent then asked, “What’s behind the blue sky?” After giving him a brief answer to satisfy him for the moment, the beautiful poetry of the question continued to occupy my mind. This simple and innocent question from a small child is essentially the same question humanity has grappled with since recorded history. 

I soon realized that there were actually two meanings to the question. One was a desire to know physically what lies beyond the comfort of our blue planet. However, another way to approach the question is to ask what Unseen Hand or Force is behind the creation of the blue sky and all else in the universe. Within the meager confines of this brief work, I begin the process of answering the question for my son.

The piece begins with a simple five note motive that permeates the entire work. Much of the music that follows deals with the first part of the question: What lies beyond the earth; behind the blue sky? There is a trio comprised of solo clarinet, bassoon and alto saxophone that continually weave in and out amongst each other all seeming to ask essentially the same question. As the soli trio continues, the texture of the accompanying ensemble thickens and grows more complex. The notes of the soli trio begin to spin faster and faster. This is suggested to represent the enormity of the universe. Each constantly repeating note representing millions upon millions of stars one may see on a clear night far from the intrusion of city lights.

Towards the end of the work, the thick texture and dense chord structures presented give way to a simple repeating unison pitch found in all instruments. It is out of this ostinato that the second part of the question is dealt with: What is behind the creation of the blue sky? In thinking about the warmth of our sun and the great light it yields during the day, I was reminded of an ancient Byzantine melody chanted in the Greek Orthodox Church at the sacred moment of midnight, Easter Morning. The entire church is darkened and out of the total blackness one single lit candle is produced while the priest chants the following hymn:

Come receive the light / The unwaning gift of light / Come and glorify Christ / Who did arise from the dead

As this hymn is chanted, the single candle light is slowly distributed throughout the entire congregation until the once blackened church is filled with light. It is this hymn that proceeds out of the ostinato figure near the end of the work. It is clearly presented twice, once in the brass growing out of the sparse texture and a second time as a very strong unison played by the entire ensemble. Following this presentation, the work builds to an energetic finale culminating on a strong restatement of the opening five note motive.