The Theatre of Magical Beings
4. The Simurgh
Four beings manifest in an internal theatrical space. The music has not been approached through narrative – rather I was seeking to express my sense of the archetypal voice that speaks through each. There are no illustrative stories to be dramatised – the theatre lies only in the play of energy.
1. GARUDA – A creature drawn from the Vedas, half man and half bird, he is the vehicle for Vishnu, preserver of the Universe. This inspired a Ritornello form in which opening music for a string sextet fans out to the rest of the ensemble and enfolds a dramatic episode.
2. UROBORUS – An ancient European symbol of a coiled serpent eating its own tail, it denotes renewal and self-sustenance. The music is cast on a symmetrical fixed-pitch grid and unfolds over a gigantic polyrhythm of six against seven. Over this circular apparatus appear several epiphanies that delineate empty spaces for meditation.
3. ELEPHANT comes from legends surrounding the Buddha’s birth. Queen Maya had a dream in which she saw a magnificent white elephant with six tusks enter her womb. The dream was interpreted by wise men as foretelling the birth of either a great leader or a great Teacher. As we know, her son Prince Siddharth was destined to become the Buddha.
4. THE SIMURGH – The image of this bird of paradise is drawn from that gem of Sufi literature The Conference of the Birds by the Medieval poet Farid ud-Din Attar in which he describes the journey of the mortal birds to meet the great Simurgh. When the mortal birds reach the journey’s end they behold a shimmering mirror of light in which they see themselves reflected. It is an image of self realisation.
The Theatre of Magical Beings is dedicated to Nicolo and Bina Sella di Monteluce.
First performed by BCMG, conducted by Susanna Mälkki, at CBSO Centre, Birmingham on 6 May 2003.