i. Behold The Man - score preview
ii. Judah's Lion - score preview
iii. Of Oxen & Sacrifice - score preview
iv. Beloved Wings - score preview
Audio streaming of entire work available on SoundCloud
Commissioned by the Idee Fixe Contemporary Music Ensemble (Thessaloniki, Greece)
Duration: 11' 30"
From the earliest points of her history, the Church has interpreted many events and personalities found in the Old Testament as foreshadows of the New Testament. Meditations on Amber & Flame is a work containing four brief reflections on one such connection. In the first chapter of the book of Ezekiel, the prophet reveals the following that was seen in a vision: “I looked and behold, a sweeping wind came from the north, and a great cloud was in it, with surrounding brightness and fire flashing forth from it. In its midst was something like the appearance of amber in the middle of the fire, and a brightness in it. In the midst, there was as it were the likeness of four living creatures…This was the likeness of their faces: the face of a man, the face of a lion on the right side of the foursome, the face of an ox on the left and the face of an eagle.” [Ezekiel 1: 4-5; 10]. The Church has interpreted the four creatures Ezekiel beheld as symbols of the four Gospels of the New Testament. Within the small confines of this composition, each of its four movements is a brief musical meditation on the theological connections between the specific creatures Ezekiel’s vision and what Gospels they point to in the New Testament.
The first movement, Behold The Man, concerns itself with the first of the creatures seen in the amber and flame: the face of a man. The Church interprets this creature as a representation of the Gospel of Matthew because this particular Gospel has, as a major theme, Christ as Incarnate God. Moreover, St. Gregory the Great (329-391 A.D.) also notes a further connection to man in that this Gospel begins with the genealogy of Christ. Musically, the movement is cast as a fugue. Musical motives are carefully worked out and built upon one another throughout and represent the careful workings of Christ’s entrance into the world through the generations of men; beginning with Abraham, continuing through David and leading up to “…Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus who is called Christ.” [Matthew 1:16]. The title of the movement is also a reference to the words spoken by Pilate in John 19:5; a phrase that is also found in an Old Testament prophecy that heralds the coming of Israel’s Messiah [Zechariah 6: 12-13].
The second movement, Judah’s Lion, concerns itself with the second of the creatures observed in Ezekiel’s vision: the face of a lion. The Church interprets this creature as a representation of the Gospel of Mark due that Gospel’s emphasis of Christ’s Royal Office. St. Gregory the Great also notes that the lion is an apt symbol because the narrative begins with John the Baptist; one “crying in the wilderness.” The title is taken from a verse found in the New Testament. In Revelation 5:5, Christ is again referred to as a lion: “Do not weep. Behold, the lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals.” The music tries to embody both the qualities of one persistently calling in the wilderness through a repetitive motive passed between the clarinet and violin as well as a regal quality as illustrated by a series of ascending chords throughout.
The third movement, Of Oxen & Sacrifice, is a reflection on the third creature observed by Ezekiel: the face of an ox (sometimes described as a calf). The Church interprets this creature as a representation of the Gospel of Luke. This Gospel emphasizes Christ’s Sacrificial and Priestly Office. As such, the music begins and ends with a plaintive solo in the cello. In between is a steadily rising chord progression imbued with an impending sense of sacrifice. I had in mind both the anguish of Christ’s prayers in the Garden of Gethsemane prior to His arrest as well as the long, anguished walk to His crucifixion.
The final movement, Beloved Wings, is a short meditation on the fourth creature of Ezekiel’s vision: the face of an eagle. The Church interprets this creature as the Gospel of John due to this Gospel’s lofty and soaring theology. The use of the word, “beloved,” is also used to acknowledge John’s status as the “beloved disciple” of Christ; the only one to remain with Him at the foot of the Cross. The music is clearly evocative of flight with undulating chords and sweeping melodic lines throughout.