For the Morning of the World

Gerald Levinson

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Publisher: Merion Music, Inc.
Print Status: Rental

Quick Overview

"For the Morning of the World" was commissioned by Yale University and first performed at the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival in July 1983, conducted by Ronald Roseman.
?The Morning of the World? is a name given by Pandit Nehru to the extraordinary island of Bali, where I have lived for two extended periods, composing and studying the music of this intensely artistic and religious culture.

The work is a suite of six movements, each of which reflects my response to a particular Balinese musical style or genre. I have not attempted to reproduce authentic instrumental timbres, nor (with a few exceptions) have I quoted from any actual compositions. Rather, each movement is a takeoff on one or two melodic traits from each style.

Balinese music is primarily percussive, for orchestras of bronze-keyed resonating instruments, and is conceived in layers moving at different speeds in different registers, based on a steady succession of ?trunk? tones (the ?cantus firmus?). In the faster-moving ?flower? parts an intricate and infinitely varied technique of interlocking syncopations produces brilliant, often polyrhythmic figurations. Vocal music as well as the flutes and string instruments found in some ensembles draw on a rich store of modal melody with subtle ornamentation.

The "Prelude" evokes the medieval dance drama "Gambuh", whose orchestra is dominated by large, wailing bamboo flutes.

The "Allegro" is based on a ritual warrior dance, the "Baris", which is accompanied by a full-scale modern gamelan gong (metallophone orchestra). I have used two of the common eight-note ostinato figures which in the Baris are repeated incessantly with frequent dramatic contrasts of dynamics, figuration, and orchestration.

The "Adagio" is a takeoff on the noble, haunting textures of the "Selunding", an ancient sacred ensemble of iron-keyed instruments found only in certain remote mountain villages. The filigree texture of the central section of the movement continues on during the return of the Selunding.

The "Scherzo" derives from one of the most peculiar styles in Bali, the "Gambang" ensemble of four large bamboo-keyed xylophones and two metallophones which only plays at cremations. I have underscored the contrast of the dry figuration of the xylophones (rendered by marimba, piano, and pizzicato strings) with the slow, irregular resonances of the metallophones (winds and crotales) in their characteristic 5+3 rhythm, which becomes the basis for the polyrhythmic combinations in the second half of the movement.

The fifth movement is freely based on the texture and melodic style of the highly refined, archaic "Semar Pegulingan", ?Gamelan of the Love God,? of which there are only two or three surviving examples of the old type in Bali. These orchestras play in shifting, strangely tuned five-note modes drawn from their seven-note ?mother? scales. The piece is a single long, accelerating melody unfolding within a complex, partly Balinese mode, also influenced by Indian ragas.

The "Epilogue" returns to the "Gambuh" melody of the Prelude, which metamorphoses into an evocation of the sound of women at a temple ceremony singing "Kidung" (sacred songs) communally, yet inwardly, each at her own pace, while a ?ghost? gamelan emerges between the phrases of the song.

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Additional Information

Commission Commissioned by Yale University
Composition Date 1983
Duration 00:24:00
Orchestration 1(Picc./A.Fl.) 1(E.H.) 2 1 - 1 2 1(B.Tbn.) 0; 2Perc. Pno.(Cel.) Str.
Premiere July, 1983. Norfolk Chamber Music Festival, conducted by Ronald Roseman, Norfolk, Virginia.