Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Music of Mourning

Music accompanies and portrays all human emotions, so it's no surprise that the world's most beautiful music has been composed to honor the memory of the departed.  From the Ancient Greeks to the present, some of the most enduring works of European art music have been associated with mourning.  The Requiem is the Catholic Mass for the Dead but many composers' versions have become popular for their emotional range, for example, Verdi's famous Requiem.

On September 11, we honor the memory of those lives lost in New York, Arlington, and Pennsylvania on September 11, 2001. Many works of music have been composed to commemorate the day, but perhaps the most eloquent is On the Transmigration of Souls, by American composer John Adams.  Transmigration is a Buddhist concept, meaning the separation of the soul from its body and subsequent travel to either a type of Hell or to a new life.

In this work, a child speaks the names of the people lost as the chorus intones some of the messages on flyers posted in the city as people searched for their missing loved ones.  It premiered on September 19, 2002 for the anniversary of 9/11, in a performance by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, which commissioned the piece.  Later, it won the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Music.

Check out the Music Collection's CD recording, or listen to the piece on Naxos Music Online (Ball State log-in required)

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