I. A Soul’s Flight
II. Flies and Maggots
III. Dies Irae
Approximate duration: 8′ 45″
for String Orchestra (minimum 188.8.131.52.2) with concertante roles for the principal Violin I and principal Violincello.
This composition was commissioned by Mr. Michael Certalic, Director of Orchestras at Bozeman High School.
May 14th, 2016, with the Bozeman High School Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Chase Jordan, with Hans Swenson as Violin I soloist, and Katherine Lee as Violincello soloist.
Video of the world premiere performance, including a spoken introduction to the work by the composer.
Chase Jordan’s “Sinfonietta di Morte” takes a critical look at humanity’s shared fate: death. Each movement musically expresses a different culture’s viewpoint on death.
The first movement, subtitled “A Soul’s flight”, references the views of some American Southwest and Mesoamerican Indian tribes that the stars are the souls of the dead wandering the sky, keeping watch on their relatives as they wait for the end of days. Another parallel is how the Mayan culture believed that the stars in the Milky Way Galaxy were souls traveling to the underworld. This movement is made up of initially long flowing lines in the solo cello representing the soul’s flight to the heavens, coupled with sparkling arpeggiations in the solo first violin as the stars are in focus. As the movement continues, the soloists die away into impressionistic writing that is still studded with sparkling arpeggios in the first violin section, eventually distilling into a homorhythmic texture as the stars morph into constellations and galaxies watching over the listener. The focus again is not on the individual but has expanded into the greater number of souls in the sky.
The second movement is subtitled “Flies and Maggots,” and represents the nihilistic view on life – that our ultimate purpose is to return to the soil, decompose into loam, and become corks to plug the next generation of beer kegs, as one could paraphrase Fyodor Dostoevsky.
The third movement, “Dies Irae”, is based on the Gregorian Chant, which is traditionally a focal point of the Requiem (Death Mass) and is commonly associated in popular culture with death. It is a song of anger and of grief.
The fourth movement, “Elysium”, takes the form of an air, representing the lukewarm happiness that death could possibly bring. The Greek segment of the underworld known as the Elysium Fields is thought of as full of flowers and as the happiest place in the underworld. This movement makes us of an old Shetland folk song, “The Fields of Foula”, in order to create the feeling of an air, yet the folk song is transposed into the aeolian mode, creating a more melancholy feel to the movement.