Voices at the End - Six Pianos and Digital Audio (2018)

Duration: 40.00

a digital concerto for 6 pianos

by John Psathas

for Piano Circus

 

 

Voices at the End was originally inspired by the film Planetary.  In this film, author and environmental activist Joanna Macy suggested there are three stories that we have to choose from, to make sense of our lives now, to make sense of our world. The first story that we could see and accept as reality is Business as Usual. All we need to do is keep growing our economy. We could call that the industrial growth society.

But there's a second story which is seen and accepted as the reality by the scientists and the activists. These are the people who lift back the carpet and look under the rug of Business as Usual and see what it's costing us. And it's costing us the world. We call that story The Great Unravelling. Unravelling is what biological and ecological and organic systems do as diversity is lost.  They shred.

That's not the end of the story though, because there's a third narrative, another lens through which we can choose to see. And that is that a revolution is taking place. A transition. From the industrial growth society to a life sustaining society. And it's taking many forms, this third story, The Great Turning. It's our story of survival and it’s got huge evolutionary pressures behind it. After all, the story of evolution is everybody's autobiography.

These three stories - Business as Usual, The Great Unravelling, and The Great Turning, form the three parts of Voices at the End.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prologue Honey

Part 1 Business as Usual

Part 2 The Great Unravelling

Part 3 The Great Turning

Epilogue Chrysalis

Prologue - Honey

The Toltecs had an idea of the human mind as a fog (a Mitote), a dream where a thousand people talk at the same time, and nobody understands each other. The prologue begins by evoking this state. 

Mitote (0.00) Inspired by this excerpt from ‘The Four Agreements’ by Don Miguel Ruiz

 

 We live in a fog that is not even real. 

This fog is a dream, your personal dream of life - 

what you believe, all the concepts you have about what you are, 

all the agreements you have made with others,

 with yourself, even with God. 

Your whole mind is a fog which the Toltecs called a Mitote. 

Your mind is a dream where a thousand people talk at the same time, 

and nobody understands each other. 

This is the condition of the human mind - a big mitote, 

and with that big mitote

you cannot see what you really are. 

 

Honey (5.05) The prologue ends with a reading from the Mahabharata, the text beautifully rendered by Jean-Claude Carriere.

 

a man is walking in a dark dangerous forest filled with wild beasts

the forest is surrounded by a vast net

the man is afraid, he runs to escape from the beasts

he falls into a big black hole

by a miracle he is caught in some twisted roots

    he feels the hot breath of an enormous snake with its jaws wide open lying at the bottom of the pit

he’s about to fall into these jaws

    on the edge of the hole a huge elephant is preparing to crush him

black and white mice gnaw the roots from which the man is hanging

dangerous bees fly over the hole letting fall drops of honey

    then, the man holds out his finger

slowly, cautiously he holds out his finger

to catch the drops of honey

    threatened by so many dangers

with hardly a breath between him and so many deaths he still isn’t free from desire

the thought of honey holds him to life.

 

 

 

Part 1 - Business as Usual (with Joe Callwood - acoustic guitar)

 

from ‘Planetary’.....

"There are three stories that we have to choose from,

 to make sense of our lives now, to make sense of our world.

The first story is; Business As Usual. 

All we need to do is grow our economy. 

I call that the industrial growth society.” 

 

 

Predator (0.33) Insatiable, voracious, predatory behaviour driving our world.

 

Bomber (2.22) The explosions in this section are real recordings of bombs being dropped and of people destroying themselves and others. Among other things, this reflects on the way violence is mediated now, that it has been thoroughly normalised through the entertainment industry. That the audio-visual mode has become our primary way of coming into contact with the world and at the same time being detached and safe from it. And that technology is all too often acting as a workstation in the mass production-line of fear.

 

Blind I/Eye (3.24) This music, that might accompany a dancing bear, is evoking a wilful blindness, a kind of 'party at the end of the world’. 

 

Precipice (4.04) Here, music becomes a runaway train, reaching a peak of intensity, a precipice, with embedded recordings of (a thousand) voices of wildly angry people painstakingly and painfully downloaded from Youtube. At this point point the piece explodes into….

 

Chaos (6.46) The collapse of order. Leading to a horrific kind of….

 

Hegemony (8.00) Emerging from this chaos is the depiction of a complete loss of diversity, in which all are chanting (and in this case playing) exactly the same thing at exactly the same time.

 

 

 

 

Part 2 The Great Unravelling (featuring Briar Prastiti - Voice)

 

from ‘Planetary’.....

"But there's another story which is seen and accepted as the reality by the scientists, the activists. 

Who lift back the carpet look under the rug of the Business As Usual and see what it's costing us. 

It's costing us the world.

We call that story The Great Unravelling. 

Unravelling is what biological and ecological and organic systems do as diversity is lost.  They shred. “

 

 

Matilde’s Girls (0.0)

Yarko Parag (Armenian song)

Gyankit arevit madagh - A sacrifice to the sun of your life

Gananch darevit madagh - A sacrifice to your green leaves

Yar ko parag boy mernem -My love, let me die in your slim shape

Che tud aseyin key g'arnem -Even if they say No, I want to take you

 

Yerek dari miyan al  - three years we got closer

Kez vra sovorel em - i learned who you are

Yar ko parag boy mernem -My love, let me die in your slim shape

Che tud aseyin key g'arnem -Even if they say No, I want to take you

 

Namakov hishele indz - She remembered me in a letter

Prnadz parevit madagh - A sacrifice to the greeting you sent

Yar ko parag boy mernem -My love, let me die in your slim shape

Che tud aseyin kez g'arnem -Even if they say No, I want to take you

 

Namakov hishele indz  - She remembered me in a letter

Kez vra sovorel em - I studied that letter over and over

Yar ko parag boy mernem -My love, let me die in your slim shape

Che tud aseyin kez  g'arnem -Even if they say No, I want to take you

 

Now 1: Living in an Ecosystem of Interruption Technologies (4.39)

Now 2: The Planet Turns [Its] Back (6.25)

10,000 Years From Now: The World Without Us (8.41) 

 

Kenopsia - The eerie, forlorn atmosphere

of a place that is usually bustling with people

but is now abandoned and quiet.

 

 

 

Part 3 The Great Turning (feat. Renkei Hashimoto - Shakuhachi)

 

from ‘Planetary’.....

"That's not the end of the story though,

 because there's another narrative another lens through which we can choose to see. 

And that is that a revolution is taking place. A transition. 

From the industrial growth society to a life sustaining society. 

And it's taking many forms, this third story, The Great Turning. 

It's got huge evolutionary pressures behind it.

And the story of evolution is everybody's autobiography."

 

Ichi-Go Ichi-E (0.0)

"One time, one meeting” - a Japanese four-character idiom that describes the concept of  treasuring meetings with people. Often translated as "for this time only,” "never again," or "one chance in a lifetime.” The term reminds people to cherish any gathering that they may take part in, emphasising the idea that many meetings in life are not repeated. Even when the same group of people can get together again, a particular gathering will never be replicated and thus, each moment is always once-in-a-lifetime.

 

Presence (2.40)

Shifts from the complete recognition of another’s presence - the relationship of oneself to another (expressed through the sound of heartbeats) -  to the awareness of the connection of oneself to the cosmos. This part ends with the recording made by the Voyager probe. Although space is a virtual vacuum this does not mean there is no sound in space. Sound does exist as electromagnetic vibrations. The specially designed instruments on-board the voyager picked up and recorded these vibrations. This actual recording from space is what you’ll be hearing at the end of this movement* as the greeting on behalf of the people of this planet, from Kurt Waldheim - then-secretary general of the United Nations - floats in and out. 

 

Look Up (3.32)

Constellation (5.00)

Black Box (5.53) From the NASA Voyager Golden Record

"As the Secretary General of the United Nations

An organisation of 147 member states who represent

almost all of the human inabitants of the planet earth

I send greetings on behalf of the people of our planet.

We step out of our solar system into the universe seeking only peace and friendship.

To teach if we are called upon, to be taught if we are fortunate.

We know full well that our planet and all its inhabitants

are but a small part of this immense universe that surrounds us

and it is with humility and hope that we take this step”

 

 

From ‘Planetary'……

The question is not, do we need a new story, but do we need a new way of telling our story?”

 

Epilogue - Chrysalis (with Joe Callwood - acoustic guitar)

 

Celebrating the acceptance of diversity and cultures of compassion, while conjuring powerful and positive forms of socialised energy (in the composer's opinion the only attitudes that provide any real hope of a way forward).

 

From ‘Planetary’.....

"Part of making the transition into our future is to begin planting the seeds of a new story.

The kind of intelligence we need is not data, but narrative. 

How do we put these disparate pieces together in a structure that has direction, momentum, promise?”

 

______________________

 

The title Voices at the End draws attention to each movement ending with voice or voices. In the prologue, it is the Mahabharata; in Business as Usual, massed crowds chanting in unison. In The Great Unravelling it is the voice of the natural world reasserting itself after we are gone, and in The Great Turning it is the voice of humanity's interstellar message being taken further and further into deep space. Finally, in the epilogue, it is the distant voices of children playing.

 

Our deepest thanks to Adrian Durham without whose generous support this project would not have been possible. Thanks also to Victoria University of Wellington for providing John Psathas with both research leave and research funding. And thanks to Aldeburgh Music for enabling Piano Circus and John to collaborate on the first realisation and sharing of Voices at the End at Snape Maltings in February 2018.

 

Thanks also to Jean-Claude Carriere who generously gave us permission to use the Honey excerpt from the Mahabharata in our performance. And thanks to Serj Tankian and Aren Emirze for their help with the lyrics of Yarko Parag. Thanks also to Lesley and Michael Shanahan for providing an invaluable composer’s haven during the creation of the music.

 

The brilliant sound design, sound effects, vocal textures, and percussion energising are by David Downes.

 

Joe Callwood and Briar Prastiti were recorded by Lee Prebble at Surgery Studios, Wellington, New Zealand. Renkei Hashimoto was recorded by George Kariotis in Paris, France.

 

*Strictly speaking, the plasma wave instrument does not detect sound.  Instead it senses waves of electrons in the ionized gas or "plasma" that Voyager travels through. No human ear could hear these plasma waves.  Nevertheless, because they occur at audio frequencies, between a few hundred and a few thousand hertz, we can play the data through a loudspeaker and listen.  The pitch and frequency tell us about the density of gas surrounding the spacecraft.

 

Score and Recordings

Score: not available yet

Recording: not available yet

 

Planetary (the film that inspired the work)

For more info see: http://weareplanetary.com/