Myrkriða, Ljósleiðá

for soprano, flute, percussion and guitar

Jeffrey Holmes

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Composer Jeffrey Holmes
Composer

Year of Composition

Instrumentation

, , ,

Duration

ca. 27'

Student Difficulty

Categories (all composers) ,
Catalogue ID ce-jh1ml1

Notes

The monodrama Myrkriða, Ljósleiðá (Rider of Darkness/Path of Light) was composed for Kirsten Ashley Wiest in the summer of 2016. This work is a dramatic meditation on death, both the unknown and foreboding nature of its inevitability, as well as the imaginings of a resolved afterwards. Many individual theoretical and stylistic elements are employed: non-octave harmonies, various microtonalities including both equal-tempered and just-intonation microtunings, a variety of “leitmotif” like melodic motives; extended and developed rhythmic talas, large-scale formal proportional symmetries, and extended performing techniques such as: singing into the flute; a soprano part that requires percussion playing; various percussive and flamenco techniques in the guitar part; and bent vibraphone keys. This multi-dimensional musical language, supported by a strong rhythmic drive, serves as the foundation of Myrkriða, Ljósleiðá (Rider of Darkness, Path of Light). With a text in Old Norse written by the composer, an ancient tongue blends two simultaneous stories: a difficult, violent, and painful journey toward the moment of death, represented by soprano and flute duo, and a recollection of the moment of death as remembered from a peaceful afterlife, where soprano and flute and joined by guitar and percussion. These two intertwined stories build in intensity, approaching the moment of death from opposite directions in time, culminating in an ending a cappella soprano recitation, providing hope and solace.

Text and translation (by the composer):

I. Nátta (Night Falling)
Svört verða sólskin um eftir veðr öll vátyrd
(Dark grows the sun and soon come mighty storms.)

II. Myrkriða I (Rider of Darkness I)
Myrkriða er ygg rikr
Herjan þrunginn moði
Hergautr blár sem Hel
(Rider of Darkness, terrible, mighty,
Evil One, swollen with rage,
Army God, black as Hel.)

III. Dagan (Daybreak)
Hljoðr þoka likr aska
(Silent, mist like ashes.)

IV. Ljósleiðá I (Path of Light I)
Ljósleiðá sjór albár kyrrsky drúpar af lá
Grímavágr sǫngr hverr spá gala undir tunglskin
Himinioðurr gnata móti logr likr ísabrot
(Path of Light, pure blue-black sea, quiet clouds drip down like life-force blood,
Waves of shadows, singing every song of fate, scream under the moonlight,
Rim of the sky, crashes into the raging sea, like ice breaking.)

V. Myðr Nótt (Middle of the Night)
Vindsval á nithafjoll, hlǫkk af sút
(Cold wind on the dark crags, clash of winter-sorrow.)

VI. Myrkriða II (Rider of Darkness II)
Ór Myrkriða stukku eitr dropar
Ǫlfossa, rauðum dreyra af valr
Sökkvabekk skogul fara Valgrind
(Down from Rider of Darkness did venom drop,
Turbulent river, reddened with blood of the slain,
Sinking stream, raging to the Death Gate.)

VII. Haugaeldr (Grave-fire)
(Instrumental)

VIII. Ljósleiðá II (Path of Light II)
Ljósleiðá rísa íkr ǫlfossá
Stjarnar bera brott mein ógleði
Verahelzt ófǫir aðr nætr-elding
(Path of Light rises like a turbulent river,
The stars carry pain and sadness away,
It is darkest before dawn.)

IX. Myrkriða III (Rider of Darkness III)
Ek Myrkriða rata roðnar brautir ór Gram
Emk aptr of kominn dreyugr vek ek þik Leiðsla
Moetta þinn ørlǫg Dauðir Dolgar heita þu
(I, Rider of Darkness, travel the blood-red road of Wrath,
I have returned blood stained, I await you by Leiðsla,
Meet your battle-fate, the Ghosts of the Dead demand you.)

X. Ótta (Last Part of the Night)
Kaldr myrkr ok þoka, hljoðr
(Cold darkness and mist, silent.)

XI. Myrkr (Darkness)
Logn alsvartr þrymja ok úrdetta
(Calm pure-black thunder and falling rain.)

XII. Ljósleiðá III (Path of Light III)
Minn Ljósleiðá kváma
Fallanðr frá myrkhiminn
Likr blóð frá banahǫgg
(My Path of Light has arrived,
Falling from the dark sky,
Like blood from the Death-blow.)

XIII. Sjóborg (Sunset)
Af malhrið sortnahugr dreyri straumr likr blársky
Ljósleiðá
(From the storm of metal my soul darkens, blood flows like a black cloud.
Path of light.)

XIV. Hljoðr (Silence)
Myrkriðá, Hljoðr, Ljósleiðá
(Rider of Darkness, Silence, Path of Light)

XV. Lykð/Upphaf (End/Beginning)
(Instrumental)