Music for the End of Time

(For trombone, video, and quadraphonic surround sound.)  



Table of Contents

1. General Description

2. PDF Score

3. Complete Video

4. A Short YouTube Trailer

5. Slide Show

6. Six Short Audio Clips

7. Order Materials

8. Program Notes

9. A Brief History of Music for the End of Time

10. Tutorial for Using Windows Media Index Numbers


1. General Description


“Music for the End of Time” is a 52-minute work for trombone, video and quadraphonic electronics based on the Book of Revelation. Premiere: Montreal, McGill University, March 1998. The video was premiered in our Taos studio in September, 2007. Abbie Conant, trombone; Norbert Bach, digital stills; William Osborne, music and video. The work is in in six movements:


I. A Door Was Opened In Heaven

II. The Sea of Glass

III. The Four Horsemen

IV. As It Were of a Trumpet Talking

V. The White Beast

VI. A Woman Clothed With the Sun


2.  PDF Score


To download the PDF score click here.  (The score is pixelated on screen, but prints beautifully.)


3. The Complete Video




To download the video click here.   (Windows Media. 326 megs.)   The downloaded file has 72 index numbers based on the rehearsal numbers in the score.  You can thus quickly navigate through the video once it is downloaded. A brief tutorial on how to use the index numbers with Windows Media is here.  


Mac users can watch the video by installing a free Windows Media component for Quicktime which is here.


4.  A short YouTube trailer for Music for the End of Time.




5. Slide Show





6.  Six Short Audio Clips


To listen to six short audio clips click here.


7. Order Materials.  


A Dolby 5.1 Surround-Sound DVD of Music for the End of Time is available, as are the performance materals.  The video and sound quality of the DVD are far superior to the download file.  To order go to the Polymnia Press


8. Program Notes 

Music for the End of Time is part of Abbie Conant’s recent project, entitled "The Wired Goddess and her Trombone,” to work with composers to create compositions for computer and trombone based on the theme of the Goddess.  To date twenty-eight works have been written or are in progress, of which she has already premiered fourteen. 

The score for Music for the End of Time was completed in 1998 and premiered at McGill University.  The video was completed in 2007 and premiered in Taos, NM.  This is one of several large scale, music theater or multi-media works William has completed for Abbie.  Our goal has been to explore new dimensions of performance art and create substantial, meaningful works for the trombone.

Apocalyptic visions have long helped humans appreciate the extreme limitation of our existential condition in relation to the boundless majesty of the universe. Transcendentalism also tends toward recurrent cycles of ecstasy, revolution, destruction and lament. These polarities inform the arrangement of the movements in “Music for the End of Time,” and shape their cycles of light/darkness, drama/reflection, ecstasy/remorse. This is especially notable in “The Four Horsemen,” where a sort of symphonic intensity and lamentive reflection alternate like repeated charges of horsemen.

Ultimately, the most meaningful understandings of the apocalyptic have little to do with destruction, but with vanquishing our own human limitations. Through the apocalyptic, we transcend not so much the universe, as our own self. We learn that in the infinite expanse of this world, our human passions are often the sheerest folly, and that the truest path to justice is through forgiveness, compassion and love. Perhaps that understanding is what St. John hoped to symbolize in his vision of "The Woman Clothed with the Sun." The ultimate value of transcendental experience might be that it shows us, in the sense of the Goddess, that nothing is more precious or transcendent that the simple beauty of life itself. 


These are the movements and the verses they are based upon:

I. A Door Was Opened in Heaven, 
After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter. (Rev. 4:1.)


II. The Sea of Glass 
And before the throne was a sea of glass like unto crystal: and in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, were four beasts full of eyes before and behind. (Rev. 4.6)


III. The Four Horsemen 
And thus I saw the horses in the vision, and them that sat on them, having breastplates of fire, and of jacinth, and brimstone: and the heads of the horses were as the heads of lions; and out of their mouths issued fire and smoke and brimstone. (Rev. 9:17)


IV. As It Were A Trumpet Talking 
After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter. (Rev. 4:1.)


V. The White Beast 
And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth. (Rev. 6:8)


VI. A Woman Clothed With the Sun 
And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars. (Rev. 12:1)



9. A Brief History of Music for the End of Time

February 17, 2012


The creation of Music for the End of Tim” spans 27 years.  A small bit of the material at the end of a “Woman Clothed With the Sun” was written in 1979 as part of a work entitled Archangels.  I wrote it for a group in New York City called Calliope: A Renaissance Band.  Alan Dean played trumpet in it, and Larry Benz trombone, along with Lucy Bardo on viol, and Ben Harms percussion.  I assumed they had long since disbanded, but I see they are still playing after 33 years!  (It appears they have a new trombonist named Steven Lundahl.)  I loved the group, but I never told them I wrote a piece for them, and I never sent it to them.  The work is probably around here somewhere stuck in box of old papers – though still in pencil. 


Eight years later, in 1987, the Munich Philharmonic Soloists were scheduled to present a concert in Sapporo, Japan, as part of a sister city celebration.  The organizer was Heinrich Klug, a cellist in the Philharmonic, who was one of the few people in the orchestra who dared be friends with Abbie.  (She was under attack by sexists in the orchestra.  They were very powerful, so her colleagues were afraid to associate with her.)  The Munich Phil Soloists were doing Stravinsky’s Soldier’s Tale and so Heinrich commissioned two works to fit that instrumentation.  They gave the strings and wood winds to one composer, and I got what was left: trumpet, trombone, percussion, and contrabass, so I first wrote Music for the End of Time for those instruments. (Note the similarity to the instrumentation of “Archangels.”)  It was in three movements and lasted about 20 minutes.  The movements were “A Door Was Opened in Heaven,” “As It Were A Trumpet Talking,” and “The Four Horsemen.” 


The acoustic version of Music for the End of Time had a difficult history because of Abbie’s situation in the orchestra.  After I completed M.E.T, the percussionist in the Munich Phil who was to perform it, Arnold Riedhammer,  telephoned Heinrich Klug and left a long message on his answering machine saying it was unplayable.  He told Heinrich to cancel the performance.  Fortunately, there was an American woman in Munich named Robyn Schulkowsky who was a fabulous percussionist.  I asked her to play it.  She performed MET in a house concert Heinrich hosted shortly afterwards and the work was a sensation.  Heinrich had two teenage children.  After the house concert, they took everyone into his office and played Arnold Riedhammer's phone message saying the work was unplayable.  Everyone had a good laugh.  Robyn made the trip to Japan for the premiere where it received a tremendous ovation.  The middle movement, “As It Were of A Trumpet Talking,” is based on Japanese shakuhachi music.  The Japanese noticed and were very pleased that their own music influenced the piece.


The next performance was scheduled in late 1987 as part of a festival of church music in Munich .  The church officials (basically an older nun) decided the piece was inappropriate and forbade its performance in the church.  The organizer, Robert Helmschrott, tried speaking to her but made no headway.  I don’t know what she told him, but he said it was the first time he had ever experienced anti-foreignerism in the church.  Robert thus put the piece last on the concert and had everyone go to a community center next to the church where the musicians played it.  Again, it was very well received.  


Due to the success of M.E.T., some of our supporters in the Munich Ministry of Culture wanted to give me the "Munich Prize" which is granted to a composer each year.  The idea was stopped by a local composition professor on the commission who said he didn't know who I was.  He did, of course, but by that time, we were strongly opposed by powerful members of the classical music community in Munich -- including several of the established composers who had close relationships with the Munich Phil.  (On the other hand, a year earlier, we were given a special prize by the theater commission (which did not include musicians) for our Beckett productions. 


In about 1988 or 89, M.E.T. was then programmed as part of a recital series performed by Munich Philharmonic musicians, but due to Abbie’s status in the orchestra, the performance was abruptly cancelled.  There was nothing Abbie could do, because she faced so much opposition from sexists in the orchestra, including the GMD, Sergiu Celibidache.  The acoustic version of MET was never performed again for the next 20 years, until one of Abbie’s former trombone students arranged for it to be played in Basel, Switzerland in 2007.  Once again, it received a tremendous ovation.  It hasn’t been played since then, so it has had four performances (counting the house concert) in the 25 years since its creation.


In the late 80s, I began working with electronics, especially since I saw it as a way around the ostracism we faced in Germany.  My sampler only had half a megabyte of memory, which was normal at the time, so I could only use a few sounds at a time.  I wrote a sketch of “The White Beast” by overlaying sounds on an 8-track tape recorder.  In 1994, I had a sampler with 16 megs of memory and completed the “The White Beast.”  We premiered it at the 1995 International Trombone Festival in Las Vegas where it was well received. 


In 1997-98, I re-composed the three movements from the acoustic version of M.E.T. for electronics and added them to the “White Beast.”  I also added two more movements, “The Sea of Glass,” and “A Woman Clothed With the Sun.”  “Woman” was completed just before we were to take the work on tour.  I had to get up very early for a couple weeks to complete it.  To avoid waking Abbie I used headphones, but on the last day, before finalizing everything, I needed to hear it on our surround-sound PA system.  Even though our system shakes our whole house, I blasted Abbie out of bed at four in the morning.  It was an unusual way for her to first hear “A Woman Clothed With the Sun.”  She loves the movement, and said waking up to it as a wonderful experience.


In 1999, we recorded the complete 52 minutes of M.E.T. in our own studio.  (The video was not yet created.)  I sent the CD and score to 10 publishers.  It was rejected by 9, and the one that accepted (Marc Reift) wanted me to surrender all rights to the work for $400.  I decided to just keep it for myself.  That way we wouldn’t have to pay him to play our own piece.  We toured in the USA with it in 1998, 2002, 2006 (and later with the video version in 2009.  We will tour with it again in 2013.) 


In 2006 or so (I can’t quite remember when,) I was able to improve the recording’s mix, because the hard disk recording software I used, Samplitude, had been greatly improved.


In August of 2007 (27 years after Archangels), I created the video for M.E.T. using Adobe Premiere version 6.5. Most of the source material was still images by Norbert Bach created in Photoshop.  I also used quite few images created by a Taos mystic named Herman Rednick, who combined Buddhist and Christian thought in his paintings.  In 2009, we toured with M.E.T. with the video.


Though Abbie and I have faced a lot of opposition and ostracism in the music world due to our advocacy for women in music, it is exactly our vision of the rise of the feminine spirit, as represented in "A Woman Clothed With the Sun" that sustains and inspires us to continue creating new works.


10. Tutorial for Using Windows Media Index Numbers


1.  Right click on the bar at the bottom of the player where the player button is.  (See figure below.)

2.  Select "View" in the menu that opens.

3.  Select "File Markers."

4.  Select the index number you want. 

This will allow you to quickly navigate through the downloaded Windows Media file.  The index numbers correspond to the rehearsal numbers in the score. (If you stream the file instead of download it, the index numbers will not work until the file has streamed completely to the end of the piece.)