for female singer, two speakers and chamber orchestra
The sun. Source of life and of destruction. Our nearest star. The hub around which our planet orbits in space. The sun guides our seasons, our nights and days, or climate, our lives.
We are intimately intertwined.
For people who live to the north, the sun represents greenery, warmth, and growth. We turn our faces toward the sun as soon as its rays begin to warm us again in spring, after the long, dark winter. Throughout the ages, we have worshipped the sun.
People who live closer to the equator celebrate rain instead. Without rain the sun is ruthless, leads to draught, starvation. Death.
My Sun Song interweaves old texts with new ones. The central text is from a twelfth century apocalyptic Icelandic poem, Solarljo∂:
The sun I saw, as she shimmered on the sea, I was afraid and bewildered…
The sun I saw, the true star of the day, sinking in roaring deep….
I have used contemporary poems about the sun in contrast to this central one, as well as whispered popular science texts about the dramatic life of the sun itself. They tell of solar winds, flares, and proturbances.
I composed Sun Song for the Swedish folk singer Lena Willemark.
She uses no vibrato, and a technique known as herding calls (Swedish kulning), traditionally used for outdoor communication over long distances and to call the cattle home. It is a highly physical, dramatic technique with a high, straightforward voice quality and strength comparable to that of a trumpet.
In my music, I seek to express something primordial.
Beyond time and trends.
The eternal condition of human life of which, in the end, there will be nothing but extinction.
– Turn out the sun.
Sun Song was awarded the Christ Johnson-prize in 1997.
The libretto in English translation
Movement 1: The sun I saw
Singer: The sun I saw/ as she shimmered on the sea,/ I was afraid and bewildered;/ in my chest/ was a heart broken to bits.
Speaker 1 (whispering):The solar wind consists of a stream of elecrically charged particles, that are radiated from the sun’s outer atmosphere, the corona, at speeds of up to 4-500 kilometers per second. It consists principally of protons, electrons and alpha particles. High-velocity currents are generated, and violent eruptions on the surface of the sun cast out these particles through the relatively slow solar winds.
Singer: The flowers living in the soil/ the soul can ne’er forget/ how lovely to see the fingers of the sun/ deep in the flora of the glades sewing/ a lovely frock/ for the bed/ we name summer meadow/ and which is stitched length by length/ with the golden thread of the sun.
Speaker 1 (whispering): Flares are the most violent phenomena on the sun. The energy that has been stored in curved and twisted magnetic fields beneath sunspots, can suddenly, and inexplicably, be freed in an explosion. Atoms and ions are thrown out, and powerful shock-waves are spread across the surface of the sun and in the atmosphere. Electromagnetic radiation of all lengths from gamma to radio frequencies is also generated. A flare reaches its brightest point only minutes after an explosion.
Singer: The sun I saw,/ bright her rays -/ powerful she seemed – / stronger than ever.
Speaker 1: Neither the moon nor the sun nor the stars/ gave me light/ The darkness gave me light/ And the light of love in me/ through whose body it rays beam.
Speaker 1 and 2: Men I saw there/ who’d lost their courage/ and could not find their way;/ that’s how they end up/ those who’ve been blinded/ by the madness of this world./ Men I saw there/ who from many/ had stolen goods and lives -/ in flocks they fled/ carrying burdens of lead./ Men I saw there/ whose hubris/ led them to think too much of themselves;/ fearsome flames/ of fire flying / around their clothes./ Men I saw there/ who against others had spread lies -/ Men I saw there/ who with envy had eyed/ all that others owned – / Men I saw there/ who in may ways – / Men I saw there/ who had robbed!
Men I saw there/ who with food/ had succored mothers;/ they rested softly/ on beds/ of heavenly light.
Singer: The sun I saw,/ the true star of the day,/ sinking in roaring deep.
Speaker 1 (whispering): The most beautiful phenomena on the sun are the prominences. These are clouds, tubes or tounges of gas. When one sees them on the edge of the sun they look like flames
Singer: The sun I saw,/ bright her rays,/ less and less I seemed to know…
Movement 2: Jola, sola, ros och ranka
Singer: Sun and run – sun and run and rose and vine – sun and run and rose and vine
Speaker 1: Sun and run and rose and vine,/ rose and vine, yours and mine/ Hitch and ditch and skirt and bind./ run and sun and high the sky
Singer: Wind and blind, become and bloom/ become and bloom, front and back
Speaker 1: Sun and run and rose and vine/ rose and vine, yours and mine/ Hitch and ditch and skirt and bind/ run and sun and high the sky
Singer: Sobbing sockets were eyes were./ Bedded run, run and sky/. I guess we can play/ and play till we’re far away /in Wonderland/ Sun and run and rose and vine….
Speaker 1.: TURN OUT THE SUN!
Musicians: Turn out the sun
Speaker 1 and 2: Turn out the sun, I want to darken/ morel-dark I want / to sleep through the night/ rest here in the shadows/ and let the night fall –
Movement 3: And so one day passes away
Singer: And so one day passes away/ ne’er to return again,/ and once more night of the Lord’s peace/ our earth is given to gain/ But You remain as you have been,/ Oh, Lord, full of grace/ and our nights, our days/ In Your council you do trace.
Texts and poems by:
1. – The sun I saw….
– Men I saw there…
from Solsången (Solarljod, Sun Song), a thirteenth century Islandic lament translated into Swedish by Gunnar D Hansson
– *The solar wind consists of a stream …
– *Flares are the most violent phenomena on the sun
– *The most beautiful phenomena on the sun are the prominences …….
Popularized scientific texts about the sun from ”Solsystemet” by I Nicholson and P Moore
– The flowers living in the soil…….
From the Swedish hymnal, Harry Martinson
– Nor the moon nor the sun nor the stars…….
From Sagan om Fatumeh by Gunnar Ekelöf
2. – Jola, sola, ros och ranka….
– Turn out the sun….
3. – And so one day passes away…..
from Swedish hymnal, C F Neander, J O Wallin
All English translations by Linda Schenck, except for texts marked *