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.”
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.