An?hata: Symphony No. 1

Gerald Levinson

Performing Ensemble: Orchestra
Publisher: Merion Music, Inc.
Print Status: Rental

Quick Overview

"Anahata" is the name of one of the principal "chakras", or ?circles,? symbolizing progressive states of spiritual awakening, in the ascending series described in the ancient Tantric teaching known as Kundalini Yoga. In this symbolic system, at once psychological, spiritual, and mythological, each chakra is located at a certain level in the body, rising from the base of the spine to the top of the head. "Anahata" is the fourth of the seven principal chakras and is located at the level of the heart. It is immediately preceded by "Manipura" (?City of Jewels?), which, together with the two lowest chakras, symbolizes the outward-turned modes of life in the world ? the world of things, of actions, of the will to power, of ego. Anahata, literally ?not struck,? represents the point of entry into the inner, transcendental world of the spirit ? the state in which one begins to perceive the sound that, unlike all physical sounds, is not produced by any two things striking against one another. Joseph Campbell describes this as the sound of ?the creative energy of the universe, the hum, sot to speak, of the void, which is antecedent to things and of which things are precipitations. This is heard as from within, within oneself and simultaneously within space. It is the sound beyond silence, heard as OM.?* It is my hope that the sounds of this symphony, even though they are produced by physical vibrations, may yet serve as a window into that world represented by Anahata, an intimation of the ?seed sound of creation.?

The work is in fact dominated by bell sounds, produced by an ensemble of metal instruments (crotales [antique cymbals], glockenspiel, vibraphone, tubular chimes [2 sets], piano/celesta, and harp) which forms the core of the orchestra. Its sonorities are often brilliant and clangorous, but at times delicate and shimmering. In the prolonged resonances of these percussive sounds one can perhaps perceive or imagine those more elusive, inner ?not struck? sounds. Though the progress of the music is often densely layered, rhythmically active, and rapidly shifting, there are many large points of arrival where a vista seems to open on a large, static harmony, which may also serve as a ?window? onto those more inward, contemplative regions.

"Anahata" is a symphony in the general sense of a large-scale orchestral work in which many contrasting but interrelated materials set in motion an elaborate, intricately worked form. It is fairly remote, however, from classical models of symphonic form and development. It is in one movement and relies on juxtapositions of block-like materials for both its moment-to-moment continuity and for its larger formal contrasts. These blocks are often scored for clearly differentiated orchestral groups, such as woodwinds alone or string alone; at times they are superimposed in multi-layered textures. ?Cadenzas? are heard in several places, in which a number of instruments or groups of instruments pursue their own lines without regard for the rhythm or tempo of the others. These tend to occur during those ?windows? or ?vistas? mentioned above, which afford a momentary vision of a world beyond clear-cut articulate thought; somewhat as in nature a complex welter of lines blends into one simple whole, sometimes harmonious and serene, sometimes explosive.

The melodic ideas are generally of three kinds: the rather wild melismatic woodwind monody heard at the very beginning; the slow, lamenting song first played by the English horn, inspired by a North Indian raga (which I first heard in devotional songs during a ?sacred concert? at a temple in Kathmandu); string melodies (often played over massive wind chorales) which are in fact transformations of the ornamental figures in the woodwind melody and of a high-flying solo violin line form the solo quartet music near the beginning.

A detailed description of the form of the symphony would be impossible in this space, given the construction in numerous small interlocking sections, but it is possible to point out the large groupings of events. It should be noted that the various ideas constantly undergo transformation, so that each idea may serve a new function and have a new character when it reappears in a new section. After an idea has reached a culmination, it generally returns later only in more fragmentary forms. After the introductory alternation of fast and slow musics, there is an extended slow section centered on the raga-like English horn melody. This is followed by the principal fast section introduced by bell chords, in which many short sections succeed one another, each growing out of some relatively insignificant element in the previous section. These eventually lead through two ?window? passages with cadenzas to the return of the opening bell chords, followed by a slow chorale and gradual dissolution. the final phase begins with a scherzo built on a rhythmic figure in the strings that had previously been heard in the trumpets at climaxes. During this section elements from all the earlier fast musics reappear in fragmentary juxtapositions and new combinations. The opening bell chords return, scored now for full orchestra. A slow chorale, immense and majestic, alternates with more ?window? cadenzas, then subsides toward the quiet conclusion, overlaid with many ideas from the slow section early in the work, with a delicate cadenza for four solo violins and two chimes players in the background.

Though the foregoing descriptive notes may be of some help in pointing out certain things to listen for in this symphony, what is most important is simply to listen, in an open, relaxed state, yet alert to the ever-changing sonic landscape.

"Anahata" (Symphony No. 1) was commissioned by the Northeastern Pennsylvania Philharmonic, Hugh Wolff, Music Director, and composed from 1984-1986. It is dedicated to my father, for his seventieth birthday. (The first performance took place on his seventy-first birthday).

*Joseph Campbell, "The Mythic Image", p. 356. (Bollingen Series C, Princeton University Press, 1974).

Available on Rental

Scores & Parts

Anāhata - Full Score - Large

Additional Information

Commission Commissioned by the Northeastern Pennsylvania Philharmonic
Composition Date 1984-86
Duration 00:32:00
Orchestration 4(2Picc.) 4(E.H.) 4(EbCl. B.Cl.) 3(Cbsn.) - 4 4 3 1; 5Perc. Pno. Cel. Hp. Str.
Premiere April 18, 1986; Northeastern Pennsylvania Philharmonic, Hugh Wolff, conductor.

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