Nickitas Demos

Mirrors of Eternity



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Mirrors of Eternity (2005)

Nickitas Demos

I. "...he would not go in..." - score preview

II. "...I see the heavens opened up..." - score preview

III. "...its desire is for you..." - score preview

Duration: 25'

Mirrors of Eternity is a chamber concerto for viola written for, and dedicated to my colleague, Tania Maxwell Clements, Viola Instructor at the Georgia State University School of Music. I initially intended to write a non-programmatic composition to showcase the artistry of Ms. Maxwell Clements. However, my early sketches pushed me in another direction. The work became, for me, a meditation on the meaning of eternity and how the world to come is already present in the world as we know it now. What part of eternity we perceive is largely based upon our choices during life. Each movement of this work explores the consequences of our choices both in the here and now and potentially beyond this world. The title of the piece is taken from a verse by St. Paul: For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I am known. (1 Corinthians 13:12)

The first movement is based upon the parable of the Prodigal Son. While the story is familiar, this movement concentrates on the older brother who did not disobey his father. When faced with the jubilant return of his repentant brother, the older son refuses to enter into his father’s house. Despite his father’s pleading, he has chosen to place himself outside his father’s love and is filled with anger and bitterness. Through his own choice, he is already experiencing the isolation and despair of Hell while still alive. The music is edgy and restless even while it is imbued with elements of jazz, representing the festival going on for the Prodigal Son. The music never fully comes to rest as the torment of the older brother is purposely unresolved.

The second movement is taken from the final moment of one of the first Christian martyrs, St. Stephen. Rather than renounce his faith, Stephen gives a powerful defense of Christ and a strong rebuke of his adversaries. These actions, made by his own choice, result his death by stoning. However, just prior to his execution, St. Stephen beholds Heaven already enveloping him while still alive. The music begins violently with the percussionist. The ominous nature of the piece, however, gradually develops into a triumphal climax. The movement ends as it began, with a violent gesture representing the death of the martyr. The movement also extensively quotes a Byzantine Chant melody, Tin Anastasin Sou – Your Resurrection chanted at the midnight Easter Service of the Greek Orthodox Church.

The third movement derives its title from the book of Genesis. The story referenced by the title deals with the murder of Abel by Cain, his brother. While contemplating the murder of his brother, God implores Cain to reconsider his intentions. Cain hears that “…sin is couching at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it.” This movement contemplates each persons struggle to overcome evil both in the world as well as within. Two motives from the first movement reappear in this movement as the music returns to a nervous, edgy, character.

Throughout the composition, the viola acts as both a commentator and active participant in the choices that result either in the experience of St. Stephen (Paradise) or the brother of the Prodigal Son (Hell) while in this world.