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  Music for the End of Time

       

 

Music For the End of Time

 

(The work is 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

 

Trombone: Abbie Conant

Music: William Osborne

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This CD, and a 5.1 Surround-Sound DVD-A, will soon
be available through Polymnia Press.

Polymnia Press also sells the performance materials.   

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Here are some sample clips using Windows Media Player.

(Please note that the CD and DVD-A have much better sound quality.)

You can download Windows Media Player here.

 

  Play All Clips

 

  The White Beast (fanfares)

  The Woman Clothed With the Sun (excerpt)

  The White Beast (opening)

  The Four Horsemen (a lyrical passage)

  A Door Was Opened In Heaven (crescendo passage)

  The Four Horsemen (a vision heard in church bells)

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Stills from the video of Music for the End of Time.

(Click on the thumbnails to see a larger version.)

 

angel copy.JPG (201067 Byte) goat mantis 2 copy.JPG (208848 Byte) dragon fly 2 copy.JPG (204266 Byte)
horsemen aspect2.JPG (164461 Byte) red shape copy.JPG (154909 Byte) harvest.JPG (232188 Byte)
mary copy.JPG (218951 Byte) star2 copy.JPG (177075 Byte) angel trumpet 4x5 and half.JPG (75246 Byte)

 

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Program Notes for Music for the End of Time

“Music for the End of Time” is a 50-minute work for trombone and quadraphonic electronics based on the Book of Revelation. We used our experience with music theater to attempt a kind of dramatic tone poem for trombone and computer. We explore all aspects of the trombone, ranging from symphonic expressions of “divine wrath,” to wild rhythmic unisons with the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, to the gentlest, meditative lyricism. 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)

 

 

We were drawn to the Book of Revelation more by its rich imagery and symbolism than any sort of doctrinaire religious belief. At times, St. John’s writing is quite transcendental, but at others, its embittered visions are almost insanely horrific. In this sense, parts of “Music for the End of Time” follow in the traditions of “crazy” composers as exemplified by Moussorsgky’s “Night On Bald Mountain,” Berlioz’s “Symphony Fantastique,” and the deeply bi-polar combinations of melancholy and exhuberance of Schumann and Mahler. In some cases, it is exactly this form of “folly” that allows for transcendental experience. 

We found that the cinematic biases of MIDI technology were more useful for creating the large dramatic arch of "Music for the End of Time" than more advanced instruments like MAX/MSP and C-Sound.  


When approaching apocalyptic visions, which are often very violent, it is important to carefully consider their implications. On one hand, these visions have helped humans appreciate the extreme limitation of our existential condition in relation to the boundless majesty of the universe. 

But apocalyptic visions can also lead to misappropriated notions of divine justice, or even divine wrath that are anything but transcendental. Such visions are often not divine at all, but rather very human expressions of contempt and hatred for those we ourselves deem unworthy. In a world that seems to increasingly reflect imperialistic hubris, and in a world with increasing beliefs about the divinity of murdering others, the dangers of misappropriated apocalyptic visions should not be under estimated.
 
Patriarchal transcendentalism 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 that nothing is more precious or transcendent that the simple beauty of life itself. 

 

 

 

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