Corwin Chair Series Lecture: "Secrets, Dreams, Faith and Wonder: A Mass for the New Millennium" (Stephen Travis Pope)

Event Date: 

Friday, February 19, 2021 - 11:00am

Event Date Details: 

 
Event link: 

Event Location: 

  • Virtual Event

Event Price: 

Free and open to the public

Event Contact: 

Adriane Cleary
Marketing and Communications Manager
UC Santa Barbara Department of Music
Stephen Travis Pope
 
The Department of Music will present a Corwin Series Lecture featuring composer Stephen Travis Pope on Friday, February 19, 2021 at 11 am PST via Zoom. Pope's lecture, titled "Secrets, Dreams, Faith and Wonder: A Mass for the New Millennium," will focus on his film, “Secrets, Dreams, Faith and Wonder," a feature-length abstract music/video ritual of thanksgiving in five parts. It follows the structure of rituals of gratitude celebrated throughout the ages and across cultures and religions. The five pieces of music incorporate voices in Latin, English, and Arabic as well as bird and whale songs. Each of the videos was made to fit the music of the respective movement. The videos for the first three parts were contributed by Pope's friends Lane Clark and UC Santa Barbara student Lance Putnam; the video for the final movement was produced using software developed at UC Santa Barbara for Graham Wakefield and Haru Ji.
 
Meeting ID: 841 2398 4807
Passcode: Corwin

About the Speaker

Stephen Travis Pope is an award-winning composer, film-maker and computer scientist based in Santa Barbara, California. He has worked developing multimedia software since the early 1980s and has over 100 publications on music theory and composition, computer music and AI. His compositions are available from Perspectives of New Music, CDCM/Centaur Records, The Electronic Music Foundation, Touch Records, and HeavenEverywhere Media. He has taught and conducted music research at Stanford University, the Universities of California Berkeley and Santa Barbara, in Berlin, Stockholm, Amsterdam, Toronto, and elsewhere. Stephen is also a practicing Quaker and active clergy in state and federal prisons.

Abstract

"Secrets, Dreams, Faith and Wonder" is a feature-length abstract music/video ritual of thanksgiving in five parts: (1) a lament of surrender (Jerusalem's Secrets), (2) the reading of the lesson (Leur Songe de la Paix), (3) the celebration of the ritual (Evigt Droem), (4) the recitation of the creed (Credo), and (5) a hymn of benediction (Ora penso…). When looked at this way, it follows the structure of rituals of gratitude celebrated throughout the ages and across cultures and religions. The five pieces of music incorporate voices in Latin, English and Arabic as well as bird and whale songs. Each of the videos was made to fit the music of the respective movement. The videos for the first 3 parts were contributed by my friends Lane Clark and (UCSB student) Lance Putnam; the video for the final movement was produced using software developed at UCSB for Graham Wakefield and Haru Ji.
 
Each of the five parts of "Secrets" has its own tonal and timbral language, and a distinct graphical language and production style, and yet they fuse into a whole when viewed as a single large-scale work. The two inner parts ("Leur Songe de la Paix" and "Credo") have text subtitles incorporated into the videos (texts by Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mohandas K. Gandhi, respectively), while the other parts each has a related text of some sort.
 
The motivation for "Secrets", for making a new mass for the new millennium, is summed up in the following paraphrased quote from the late Joseph Campbell, "Those who have heard the rhythms and hymns of the angels, who have understood any of the words of the angels, will try to recite those hymns in such a way that the angels will be attracted."
 
At the start of the year 2000, after the Y2K "new millennium" festivities had died out, I collected the texts that were to become "Jerusalem's Secrets," "Leur Songe de la Paix" and "Credo" (from the Bible, rock song lyrics, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Mohandas Gandhi, respectively), and with them, I laid out the form of a new dramaturgy of the traditional mass. The five parts were to correspond as metaphorical settings of the main stages of the common mass: 1) kyrie/lament, 2) reading/teaching, 3) sacrament/ritual/mystery, 4) sharing of the creed, and 5) benediction. It is an ironic accident (O felix culpa) that the titles of the five pieces that constitute "Secrets" are in five different languages.
 
The Joseph Campbell quote cited above served as the guiding mantra for all stages of the music composition and video creation. Each of the five parts of Elements would be a setting of the chosen text together with instrumental, environmental, and (just a few) electronic sounds to create a series of "rooms" or "places" in which strong forces from the texts are active (i.e., "the angels will be attracted"). The benediction was to be a simple piece of instrumental chamber music without words. In contrast to much of my earlier work, these pieces would be "sound collages" in multiple short movements, and would establish, from the first moments of Jerusalem's Secrets, a very slow tempo (to set the text as deliberately as possible), and an emphasis on the bass registers and spatial reverberation.
 
I started working with the voices (esp. of Gandhi, King, and the Latin chanting of Krenek's Lamentatio), and collected the unprocessed whale song sources, but hadn't planned what form the actual ritual would take, the replacement for the sacrament of communion. During 2000-01, "Leur Songe de la Paix" took shape, incorporating some sources from my earlier works "SensingSpeakingSpace" and "4 Magic Sentences" (which were released by Absinthe Records and Electronic Music Foundation, NY, respectively) to set alongside Martin Luther King, Jr's voice.
 
In 2001, I received a commission for a large-scale electronic piece for the tenth anniversary of the Swedish "KREV" artists movement (elgaland-vargaland.org); the piece was supposed to revisit materials from my earlier KREV-related processed-voice piece "All Gates are Open" (1991-92, released by the Electronic Music Foundation, NY). The piece that resulted from this was "GatesStillOpen" (released on Touch/Ash CDs, London in 2002) which had a series of performances in 2002-06 and gradually took on the ritual aspects and live video remixes (of preludes and postludes) as it evolved into the music/video piece "Evigt Dröm" (completed in 2006). This was obvious as the choice for the central part of the new mass (which still had no title); it was to serve as the sacrament, rite of communion or mystery.
 
In 2005, the German radio authority (through my old friend Clarence Barlow) commissioned a short piece for string quartet (with or without electronics) for a festival marking the 50th anniversary of the first computer-aided instrumental music (the "Illiac Suite for String Quartet" [1957] by Lejaren Hiller and Leonard Isaacson). As unwise as it seemed to write something very simple, tonal and pretty for premiere and broadcast by the leading German quartet known for avant garde music (the Minguet Quartet), that's what I decided to do in "Ora penso invece che il mondo...," which was premiered in Cologne in November, 2006 and was recorded and broadcast. As I completed the earlier movements and had concertante performances everywhere from electronic music festivals to peace marches, videos were contributed by close friends who happened to be visual artists and film-makers, so the mass became a film.
 
Most of the music was completed by 2008, but the final version of the film took another ten years. After its festival premiere (of version 1) at ISEA in 2012, "Secrets" has been shown at over 70 film and music festivals winning "Best" or "Outstanding" awards at 40 festivals. It was the first full-concert-length piece ever programmed at the New York City Electronic Music Festival, and was played two years in a row (short version and then feature version) at the Ecos Urbanos Festival in Mexico City.
 
Stephen Travis Pope