The Crucifixus takes its symbology from the Christian biblical description of Good Friday.
“A vision of hell, a world where there is no love has only cruelty, pain, loneliness“ sings the mezzo-soprano sinuously in this slow “sarabande” a stately dance of Moorish/Spanish origin in triple meter which lends itself to the inclusion of references to Ravel’s dance of life and death orchestral Bolero.
Here the pedal point and repeated harmonic structure anchors the plaintive melodic descent of the celeste. Choral voices depict the horror and suffering of violence and war, supporting the soloist. “we of little faith in truth and love have created hell”, they moan in distress. The painful pace echoes a man staggering up the hill to Golgotha, place of the skull, the omphalos (navel) of the world.
We observe events unfolding in a symbolic universe where modernity has generated the invention of the secular by rejecting the participation between the immanent and the transcendant (natural and supernatural) worlds which preceded it. When the transcendant and immanent aspects of life no longer participate in one another, there is no meaning in life and nihilism results.
Although not literally or consistently a chaconne with a repeated harmonic framework like J.S.Bach’s Crucifixus from the B Minor Mass, the repetitive intent of this Crucifixus is similar, serving to accentuate the agony and nightmare of hanging from a cross in pursuit of healing.
Spiritual experiences of death and rebirth communicate a process of becoming whole through sacrifice.
Sacrificial dismemberment, death and rebirth are ritual steps of a transmutation process undergone by ritual shamans from archaic times even to this day. What we call “religion” evolved through a series of stages :
i) Archaic stage _ shamans, medicine men and sages
ii) Ancient civilizations – prophets, physicians and priests
iii) Christian heritage – mystics, theologians and philosophers
The cross represents the dilemma (crisis) of re-uniting the vertical (spiritual) with the horizontal (physical) planes of existence – the resolution of the opposites.
“We crucify life each day, inflicting our own wounded consciousness on all around us. As Christ suffered and died on behalf of his enemies, our hearts must suffer a crisis of faith” advocates the choir for the sake of our own transformation from hell-creators to healed ones , in the style of priests intoning liturgical text, later overlaid by the soloist in the countermelody, supported by trumpet.
Upper woodwind and later piccolo trumpet sustain a broad countermelody, over the harmonic pattern.. Horns and trombone murmer the underlying harmonies insistently while pitched percussion and woodwind subside chromatically in layered waves, as if sighing and lamenting. The harp attempts brief passages of delicate ascent supported by pizzicati across the string section.
Snare and violins outline a familiar rhythm reminiscent of Bolero, with added textural layers leading to the climax immediately preceding the Dies Irae.