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  Viaticum/Robert Bates (3 CDs!)
Viaticum - Robert Bates


 
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Program and Notes Reviews
 
Viaticum: A Journey of the Mind, Body and Soul
Robert Bates, organist & composer
Organs of Stanford Memorial Church
 
This unusual CD documents a tri-part program of 20th-century music, organized and composed by Robert Bates.  It includes many world premier recordings (in red).  With interspersed spoken texts and imaginative programming, Bates explores the nature of the world and ourselves, through verbal themes and non-verbal sound paintings. This is the most unusual organ recording in our collection, and it is a masterpiece of invention, symbolism and imagination.
 
Includes 24-page book on the music and organs used, plus a 16-page graphical audience score.

CD 1 - The Universe Within: A Journey of the Mind

Prelude 1: Trivium (part 1)/ Arvo Pärt
Pythagoras: Annum per annum ("Year by Year")/ Arvo Pärt
Heraclitus: Orpheus and the Winged Creatures
     (for organ and synthesized harp with audience score)/ Robert Bates
The Philosophers of Miletus: Les feux du silence
     ("The Fires of Silence" from Hyperion or The Rhetoric of Fire)/ Jean Guillou
Democritus: Ricercare/ György Ligeti
Plato: Le jardin suspendu ("The Suspended Garden")/ Jehan Alain
Plotinus: Birthday Tribute
     (for organ and synthesizer, constructed on the name B-A-C-H)/ Bates

CD 2
  - A Journey of the Body
 
Prelude II: Trivium (part 2)/ Arvo Pärt
Beginning of the Universe: Coulée ("Flow" from Zwei Etüden für Orgel)/ Ligeti 
The Stars: Lumière
     ("Light" from Sept méditations sur le Saint-Esprit)/ Jeanne Demessieux
Emergence of Life: Coalescence (for organ and pre-recorded organ)/ Bates
The Cambrian Explosion: Gavotte Primitive (for organ and synthesizer)/ Bates
Creatures of Land and Air: Les oiseaux et les sources
      ("The Birds and the Springs" from Messe de la Pentecôte)/ Messiaen
Fool, Fool: Ikarus (Saga No. 6)/ Guillou
Worlds Beyond: Time Machine
      (for organ and pre-recorded organ)/ Bates
Harmony of the Universe: Harmonies (from Zwei Etüden für Orgel)/ Ligeti

CD 3
- Life after Life: A Journey of the Soul

Prelude III: Trivium (part 3)/ Arvo Pärt
Cortege and Descent: Danse funèbre ("Funeral Dance" from Trois danses)/ Alain
Journey to the Other Side: Charon's Oar (with audience score)/ Bates
Entry: Hades' Realm (with audience score)/ Bates
Trial: Last Judgment (for organ and synthesizer)/ Bates
Ascent to the Light: Ascent/ Joan Tower
Release: In Paradisum (from Three Pieces for Organ)/ Calvin Hampton
Journey's End: Trivium (complete)/ Pärt
Program Notes

A Short Guide to Viaticum

Viaticum takes us on three journeys: of the mind, of the body, and of the soul. During each journey, we seek an answer to the same question, “What is the nature of the universe?” Three answers are given: one by the voice of philosophy, another by the voice of science, and the last by the voice of religion.

After a prelude to the first journey, the voice of philosophy responds to the question by guiding us through the teachings of the ancient Greek thinkers: 1) Phythagoras taught that the universe consists of numbers and ratios. 2) Heraclitus taught that all is measure and opposites are one. 3) The philosophers of Miletus taught that everything consists of a single substance, such as fire. 4) Democritus taught that the universe consists of tiny, indivisible atoms, surrounded by empty space. 5) Plato taught that the universe consists of Ideas or Forms. 6) Plotinus taught that beyond the universe of matter, there is also a trinity of Ideas, which we can experience by taking a “journey of the mind.” After we ascend through this trinity, however, we arrive at an Absolute, which can not be understood.

After a prelude to the second journey, the voice of science takes up the same question as it leads us through the evolution of the universe, stopping at various important points along the way: 1) When the universe first began to cool after the big bang. 2) When the galaxies and stars first formed and elements were propelled into space. 3) When the Earth formed and life came into being. 4) When life evolved in the seas. 5) When life moved onto the land and into the air. 6) And finally when the human species appeared on the Earth. Science then asks us to consider our future in space and the end of time itself. At this point, however, we again arrive at an Absolute that exceeds all human description. But science believes we shall someday understand this frontier, for everything ultimately is knowable because of an underlying “harmony of the universe.”

After a prelude to the third journey, the voice of religion offers its own response to the question as it leads us on a journey of the soul: 1) We begin with a funeral procession and descent to the world below. 2) We continue by following the soul as it crosses over the River Styx. 3)

Next we pass into Hades’ realm where the soul comes into the presence of terrifying beings. 4) We then accompany the soul as it experiences its final judgment. 5) We follow as it ascends through the layers of the cosmos. 6) Finally, we join the soul as it encounters the Absolute, which again surpasses all human understanding. Viaticum concludes when our three journeys intersect at a common ground, which the Romans called a “Trivium.”

Special Features

In addition to the very concept itself, Viaticum has a number of unusual features. These include: a narration that alternates with organ pieces, music with accompanying visual scores, duets for organ and synthesizer, duets for organ and pre-recorded organ, and experimental works in which the organ is purposely “denatured.”

Viaticum is also full of numerology. In particular, there are many references to the number three embedded in its structure. It would perhaps be a shame to mention them all, since much of the fun of numerology comes from discovering examples for oneself. Nevertheless, a few examples here will get you started! Viaticum contains 21 compositions (2+1 = 3 and 3*3*3*3*3*3*3 = 21). There are three pieces with accompanying audience scores. The total number of composers represented in the series is nine (3+3+3), and nine compositions are recorded for the first time. Each journey is structured according to the number three or contains an explicit reference to it: The first concludes with an ascent through a trinity of Ideas. The second is a journey through time, progressing from the moment immediately after the big bang (the past), climaxing with the human species (the present), and concluding with the big crunch at the end of time (the future). The third journey takes place on three planes: here on Earth, down below in Hades, and high above in the presence of the Absolute. Finally, although the term “Viaticum” is mentioned at the beginning of each of the three journeys, a full description comes only once: as an introduction to the third piece of the third journey.
 
CD Booklet contains extensive additional articles on the music, the two organs used and their stoplists, and artist biographies.

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