Missa gentis humanae (2010) for eight-voice a capella choir (CCAATTBB)

Audio Excerpt 1


Program Notes   

      The ritual of the Mass is both a remembrance and celebration of God's sacrifice for every human life. This sacrifice, Jesus' Crucifixion for our sins, is the most profound act of Love and the redemptive essence of this ritual celebration. The fons et origo of my Mass setting lies in including Christ's call to Love from the Gospel According to St. John into the traditional texts of the Mass Ordinary: 'This is my commandment: That you love one another as I have loved you.' (John 15,12) Love, so central to the human experience and existence, inspired me to augment the Latin Mass texts with literary reflections, meditations, and exhorations on love by authors throughout the centuries drawn from the main branches (Slavic, Germanic, Koine Greek, Latin) of Indo-European language families. Phrases and extended passages drawn from Borges, Virgil, Brecht, Zbigniew Herbert, Dostoevsky, Plautus, Herbert and Walter Scott establish broad aesthetic, devotional, linguistic and literary perspectives that engage with the Mass texts and each other. The Mass thus becomes a multilingual vessel of cross-referential commentary, interpretation, reflection and even textual substitution for portions of the Mass Ordinary. This dramatic fusion of different languages, ideas, beliefs and Augustinian-type 'confessions' within the Mass Ordinary creates a profound dialogue with doctrine. Yet regardless of varying literary aesthetics and tradtions, all texts, including those that comprise the Mass ordinary, are reconciled by a common appeal/commandment: love and to love. By embracing different languages and texts, the appeal becomes universal and Missa gentis human√¶ humbly reveals itself as Mankind's Mass.

      Two juxtaposed and inversely operating criteria determine the progress of the work. On the one hand, the interraction of vocal lines gradually increases as the harmonic language "devolves", from densely chromatic to transparently diatonic. Within these processes, the syllabic structures of the texts themselves contribute to their 3-stage 'evolution': each non-Mass Ordinary text 'evolves' from (1) non-vowels (sung Bocca chuisa [humming] and Bocca quasi chuisa [mouth half open] to vowels to (2) syllables to (3) words and phrases and is delineated by pointillistic, homophonic and polyphonic textures respectively.