GEORGES LENTZ - composer / sound artist
  Universal Edition
  Caeli enarrant III
  String Quartet(s)
  Cobar Sound Chapel
  Violin Concerto
 About "Caeli enarrant..." III
from 'Mysterium' ("Caeli enarrant..." VII)
for three string quartets and three percussionists (1990-2000)

(The following text about "Caeli enarrant..." III can also be read, in general terms, as an introduction to other works in the cycle, particularly the early works "Caeli enarrant..." I to IV)


"Caeli enarrant..." III reflects my fascination with astronomy - the gigantic dimensions of the universe as well as its innumerable galaxies in magnificent colours and shapes. In my "Caeli enarrant..." cycle written for varying instrumental combinations, I have tried to translate these concepts into musical structures. The result is a symbolic sound language that also attempts to express my spiritual beliefs, questions and doubts.

One of the central features of the work is silence, a precondition to any form of contemplation and an analogy to the absence of (visible) matter in huge portions of the universe. In a world dominated by speed, noise, fun and mass culture, we seem to have lost the patience to open ourselves to time and silence. Yet silence has a strange and individual quality. Not every silence is the same. It is 'coloured' by its acoustic environment, i.e. the music that precedes it. In other words, silence is not simply absence of sound, but 'spiritual music', as it were. Analogously, I believe that the parts of the universe that do not contain any visible matter are still filled with 'spirit', a higher presence beyond time and space.

"Caeli enarrant..." III shows the influence of traditional Tibetan Buddhist music, particularly of the gyaling, an ancient shawm-like wind instrument in the orchestras of the Tibetan monks. The gyaling plays the 'melody' and decorates it with trill-like patterns. This music with its characteristic absence of rhythmic pulse represents the idea of timelessness.

A deliberately rigid serial technique gives the music a sense of rotation and symbolizes the circle/spiral, a recurrent feature in the universe. Even the 'beautiful' modal chords towards the end of the work are influenced by the tone row. However, the use of this technique is merely a means of expression, never a dogmatic system. The established rigid pattern is therefore often destroyed in the course of the composition, opening the doors to intuition, even randomness.

"Caeli enarrant..." III is based on the central tone 'a'. Inside the atonal framework of much of the music, this central note gives a tonal reference or meaning, similar to the meaning given by the idea of God to an otherwise seemingly meaningless world.


G. L. 1996

P.S. - September 2002:
These early works ("Caeli enarrant..."I - IV), written in the late 1980's and early 1990's, all have rather exalted and elaborate movement titles. I was immersed at the time in Christian and Hindu mystical reading and I literally surrounded myself with books and pictures of celestial objects. Thoughts of 'other worlds' were on my mind constantly. I also often found myself endlessly gazing at photos of celestial objects, to the point where different objects took on entirely different characters and meanings for me. As these early installments of "Caeli enarrant..." were never commissioned and there were no performances in sight, they were for me something of a diary - I recorded in detail what reading, what images of galaxies were on my mind at the time of composition.

I must confess that I myself find these titles somewhat hard to relate to these days. I stress, however, that they were meant sincerely and that they were certainly full of meaning for me at the time - they were initially not for public display anyway. The reason I still acknowledge them is because they evoke, for me, a certain unselfconscious stage in my life. I am, however, thinking of omitting these movement titles in future editions of the music - I suspect they are not particularly helpful to anyone but myself...


G. L.