for instrumental ensemble
duration approximately 12 minutes
The raven, with its black feathers and characteristic call, is a bird with mythological overtones. In early Norse mythology, the god Oden had two ravens that flew out over the world, gathering knowledge.
Among all the peoples living near the Arctic circle, the raven has always been associated with the sun, the myth being either that a raven stole the sun or revealed it. Presumably it is the blackness of the raven that evokes the association with the sun, its opposite.
In Swedish, there is an idiomatic expression making ravens a bad omen (“a raven of disaster”), and in the past the raven was the bird of death. People believed that seeing a raven meant that one was going to die.
What about the call of the raven? In Swedish you can be “hoarse as a raven,” but that’s actually a bit unfair. Ravens have more than one call, and many of them are very sonorous.
In “Raven Chant” the saxophone and the trumpet sing and call together. Alongside them, the oboe and the clarinet respond. In an interlude the bassoon takes over, calling out a drone with low sounds, resembling those of the double bass and bass drum, and sounding like a huge bumblebee. The piano plays an important role, with huge clusters of sound interrupting and dominating the flow. In the final movement, there is a general collapse into a huge hollow, out of which the piece is concluded.
“Where the raven pales and the swan turns black”. There, in that magical place, anything can happen, can’t it?
I composed Raven Chant for the Either/Or ensemble, and it will be premiered at a portrait concert at the Miller Theatre in New York in March, 2012.
Raven Chant is related to the stage composition ”Where the raven pales,” a piece including voice. Raven Chant is shorter and perhaps a bit more wild, but the two pieces have the same DNA.