AN 2 8784-5 R. Murray Schafer Apocalypsis

R. Murray Schafer: Apocalypsis

Release date February 26, 2016
Album code AN 2 8784-5
Periods Contemporary

They spoke about it

Album information

Apocalypsis: a music-theatre work

On June 26, 27, 28, 2015, at the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts in Toronto, R. Murray Schafer’s Apocalypsis was performed in full, for the first time since its world premiere in 1980, under the direction of Lemi Ponifasio and the baton of Toronto conductor David Fallis, as part of Luminato Festival. Schafer’s epic musical voyage is in two parts: “Part One describes the destruction of the world and Part Two suggests the birth of the new universe.” In one of the largest performance events Canada has ever seen, Apocalypsis blended professional and amateur talents in a cast of almost one thousand singers, musicians, conductors, actors and dancers to create an unprecedented feast for the eyes, ears and soul.

R. Murray Schafer’s Apocalypsis
Part One: John’s Vision
Part Two: Credo

A Luminato Festival production

What is the purpose of art? by R. Murray Schafer

FIRST, EXALTATION. Let us speak of that. The change that occurs when we are lifted out of the tight little cages of our daily realities. To be hurled beyond our limits into the cosmos of magnificent forces, to fly into the beams of these forces and if we blink, to have our eyes and ears and senses tripped open against the mind’s will to the sensational and the miraculous. To feel these forces explode in our faces, against our bodies, breaking all encrustations and releasing us with a wild fluttering of freedom. Let us first speak of that. Of the newness that stuns the mind and sends it reeling. Let us speak of that. How everything becomes new. And if we return to our daily routines, they are no longer routines, but scintillate and have become magnificent by our sensing them with fresh eyes and noses and minds and bodies. Let us speak of this exaltation which has driven us out of ourselves to experience the life we have missed or only vaguely sensed, even resisted.

This must be the first purpose of art. To effect a change in our existential condition.

A Journey Towards Apocalypsis by Jörn Weisbrodt (artistic director, Luminato Festival)

I first listened to R. Murray Schafer’s magnum opus while driving to the first preview of another monumental piece: Robert Wilson and Philip Glass’ Einstein on the Beach; I was completely riveted. The fact that I did not have a fatal accident is a miracle. A year later, when I saw Lemi Ponifasio’s work, I knew that he was the right person to direct Schafer’s Apocalypsis. In David Fallis, a fearlessly calm man who sees a gorgeous palace where others see a marble quarry, we already had the only possible conductor for the piece.

Schafer describes Apocalypsis as the destruction of the universe and the possibility of a new vision; this is also the essence of Ponifasio’s work. If the world ends tomorrow, what would I say? what would I do? are the questions his theatre asks. The essence of these questions is: what lies behind the destruction and what follows it? With Ponifasio I believe there is the possibility for a positive interpretation of the Apocalypse as a passage towards a new beginning, a cleansing. Schafer’s transcendental choir music in Part 2 of Apocalypsis provides a sonic cleansing, a journey from chaos to order. Apocalypsis maps out the two possibilities that our existence could take, and while the work is based on religious texts, it is not in itself religious. We are estranged from nature, we are destroying it, but in Schafer’s opinion, music and art can inspire a new dialogue with nature and the world we live in. It is this harmony that Apocalypsis tries to achieve: nature gives birth to art and art reconnects us to nature.

For the Luminato Festival the three years spent working on this piece was an incredible journey, one that also led from chaos to order. Three years ago there was nothing: no cast, no set, no money; there was just the idea and the score; there was only a desert where now there is an empire of sound, a rich and sparkling oasis, built by 1000 mostly nonprofessional musicians and performers and another 100 people behind the stage. Here life imitates art: the process of producing Apocalypsis was the essence of the piece itself. It created a community of performers from all over Ontario and the rest of the world, engaged in a ritual. In this recording, the performers invite the listener to share in this process or ritual. I am eternally grateful to them because they allow me once again to experience what they are going through.

Music Director’s notes… An Homage by David Fallis

It was just after the New Year of 2015 that I received an email from an archivist doing cataloguing in the CBC Radio archives. She had come across some boxes of materials related to the original production of Murray Schafer’s Apocalypsis and wanted to know if I would be interested in coming down to have a look. Indeed, yes.

So we arranged a time, and in due course, in the lower depths of the CBC building on Front Street, she showed me some of the original materials from the 1980 production in London, Ontario. There were singers’ parts, sometimes notated with indications about which conductor to watch, how loud to sing, etc., sometimes with more ephemeral additions – Sally’s phone number, or a reminder of the time of the next rehearsal. There were parts which some day might contribute to whole chapters in a PhD thesis about Schafer’s creative process, because they contain material not found in the final full score.

As I nosed about, I felt a bit like an archeologist searching for clues about an ancient culture. At the same time I was reminded of a book which Murray had once kindly given me, a book published by his own Arcana Editions entitled Dicamus et Labyrinthos: A Philologist’s Notebook. Dicamus is apparently a facsimile edition of a notebook belonging to an unnamed archeologist trying to decipher an ancient text written on tablets unearthed in Magia Tribia, Sicily. How it came to be published by Murray’s own publishing company, I have no idea, but I could not help but think of it as I looked at these Apocalypsis (the Greek word for “disclosure”) papers.

Imagine my surprise then, when, kindly having been allowed to borrow a few of the materials to examine at greater leisure at home, from the back of one of the scores out dropped a couple of pages of notes, apparently written by some anonymous member of the original team of creators. Space does not permit a full facsimile here, but allow me to share with you just a few of the notations:

  • one work, 2 parts
  • in “Cosmic Christ” all forces at different tempos
  • multiplicity
  • John mantra-like, inside the head
  • general progression from F to B and back (the old devil in music)
  • why is seven considered a sacred number? 7 seals, 7 trumpets, opening movements all 7 minutes long, singers count up to seven and back down to one, 7’s everywhere
  • still more multiplicity, like nature, not one grain of sand like the next
  • monks, children, women, speaking, brass, winds, bells, creatures, drums, chains, organ, waves, whistles, none the same
  • try the difference between spruce and maple for xylophone planks
  • Ein jeder Engel ist schrecklich (Rilke) – Every (single) angel is terrifying
  • what to call part 2
  • get stones for the men – Lake Huron the closest?
  • why is twelve considered a sacred number? 12 tribes, 12 disciples, 12 gates of the new Jerusalem, 12 chamber choirs, 12 string quartets, 12 tones in the chromatic scale, 12 invocations and responses, each one centred around one of the 12 chromatic notes
  • unity of voices, all with similar material, no distinctions
  • currents of sound
  • Bruno says there is no divinity apart from its manifestations, no spirit without matter, and vice versa, both infinite, but how can unity and multiplicity be one and the same? Credo
  • music experienced in time – can we experience it more like a picture, hanging entire?
  • so many community members offering to converge in (musical) time
  • one work, 2 aspects
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Lemi Ponifasio
David Fallis
R. Murray Schafer

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