I wanted this work to revel in the power of human community. There should be no soloists, and the text should relate to our basic need for religion without being overtly religious. To focus on this 'inner' humanity, I selected four hymns from religions long-dead, in languages that have not been spoken for thousands of years. Although there are only a handful of scholars in the world who could plumb the depth of both these languages, the sequence of phonemes, the rhythm and intent of the sounds, still resonate with our primal need to create order from chaos.
Enuma Elish is a creation myth describing the creation of the world from primeval chaos. Although generally described as 'Sumerian' or 'Babylonian' and possibly originating before 2000 BC, this version of the myth is taken from a cuneiform tablet in Semitic Akkadian of Northern Babylonia, 1300-1250 BC. The remaining three texts are Eis GÍn, Eis SelÍnÍn, and Eis HÍlion - hymns to the Earth, the Moon, and the Sun. These are taken from the Homeric Hymns (circa 400 BC), written in the centuries following Homer's death as introductions to public readings of his great epics. They were written in Greek 'Epic Dialect' and have been interpreted according to Revised Classical pronunciation.
These four tracts combine to form a simple pantheon of the human condition: an account of creation followed by our relationship to the prime deities of the cosmos. Each hymn is preceded by an orchestral prelude.
Choral Symphony was commissioned by Guildford Grammar School (Perth, Western Australia) in celebration of their first centenary, with financial assistance from the Performing Arts Board of the Australia Council. It was first performed by the West Australian Symphony Orchestra and the WASO Collegium Choir, conducted by the composer on March 8th, 1996, Perth Concert Hall, Western Australia.
I owe an enormous debt of gratitude to Trevor Evans (Sydney University, Classics Department) and Professor Noel Weeks (Sydney University, Department of Ancient History) for their patient help in explaining Ancient Greek and Semitic Akkadian, respectively.
|I - Enuma Elish|
Enuma Elish la nabu shamamu
Shaplish ammatum shuma la zakrat
Apsu rishtu zarushun
muumu Tiamat mualidat gimrishun
mushunu ishtenish ichiquuma
gipara la kitsura tsutsa la she'u
enuma ilani la shupu manama
shuma la zukkuru shimatu la shimu
ibanuma ilanu qiribshun ...
When in the height heaven was not named
And the earth beneath did not yet bear a name
And the primeval Apsu, who begat them,
and Muumu, Tiamat, the mother of all.
Their waters mingled as one
And no field was formed, no marsh was to be seen.
When of the Gods none had appeared,
And none bore a name, and no destinies were ordained;
The Gods were created in their midst ...
|II - Eis GÍn mÍtera pantŰn|
Gaian pammÍteiran a'eisomai, Í'Łthemethlon,
presbistÍn, hÍ ferbei epi chthoni panth hopos estin;
Ímen hosa chthona dian eperchetai, Íd hosa ponton,
Íd hosa pŰtŰntai, tade ferbetai ek sethen olbu.
ek se'o deupaideste kai eukarpoi telethusi,
potnia, seu dechetai dunai bion Ídafelesthai
thnÍtois anthrŰpoisin; ho dolbios, honke sŁ thŁmŰ
profrŰn timÍsÍs; tŰ tafthona panta paresti.
Brithei men sfin arura feresbios Íde katagrus
ktÍnesin euthÍnei, oikos dempiplatai esthlŰn;
Autoi deunomi'Ísi polin kata kalligŁnaika
koirane'us, olbos de polŁs kai plutos opÍdei;
paides deufrosŁnÍ ne'othÍle'i kŁdio'Űsi,
parthenikaite chorois feresanthesin eufroni thŁmŰ
paizdusai skairusi katanthea malthaka poi'Ís,
huske sŁ timÍsÍs semnÍ thea afthone daimon.
|to the Earth, Mother of all|
I will sing of well-founded Earth, mother of all,
oldest of all beings. She feeds all creatures in the world,
all that go upon the good land, all that move in the seas,
and all that fly: all these are fed by her store.
Through you, O queen, men are blessed in their children
and in their harvests, and to you it belongs to give
life to mortal men and to take it away.
Happy is the man whom you delight to honour!
He has all things abundantly: his fruitful land is laden with
corn, his pastures are full of cattle, and his house is rich.
Such men rule orderly in cities of fair women:
great riches and wealth follow them: their sons exult with
youthful delight and their daughters in flower-laden bands
play and skip merrily over the soft flowers of the field.
Thus is it with those whom you honour,
O holy Goddess, bountiful spirit.
|III - Eis SelÍnÍn|
... hÍs apo aiglÍ gaian helissetai uranodeiktos
kratos apathanatoi'o, polŁs dŁpo kosmos orŰren
aiglÍs lampusÍs; ...
... tekmŰr de brotois kai sÍma tetŁktai.
Chaire, anassa, the'a leukŰlene dia SelÍnÍ ...
|To the Moon|
... From her immortal head a radiance shines
from heaven embracing the earth, and great is the beauty
of her shining light; ...
... so she is a sure token and a sign to mortal men.
Hail, white-armed goddess, bright Selene ...
|IV - Eis HÍlion|
HÍlion hŁmnein ... archeo ...
fa'ethonta, ton EurŁfa'essa bo'Űpis
geinato Gai'Ís paidi kai Uranu astero'entos;
gÍme gar EurŁfa'essan agakleitÍn HŁperi'Űn
autokasignÍtÍn, hÍ hoi teke kallima tekna,
Í'Űte hrodopÍchŁn, e'Łplokamonte SelÍnÍn,
Í'elion takamant, epi'eikelon athanatoisin,
hos fainei thnÍtoisi kai athanatoisi the'oisin
hippois embeba'Űs; smerdnon doge derketai ossois
chrŁsÍs ek korŁthos, lamprai daktines apautu
aiglÍ'en stilbusi, para krotafŰnte parei'ai
lamprai apo kratos chari'en katechusi prosŰpon
tÍlauges; kalon de peri chro'i lampetai esthos
lepturges pnoi'Í anemŰn, hŁpo darsenes (h)ippoi ...
enth ar hoge stÍsas chrŁsozdŁgon (h)arma kai hippus
thespesios pempÍsi di uranu Űkeanon de.
Chaire anaks, profrŰn de bion thŁmÍre opazde;
|To the Sun|
First, ... sing a hymn of the
radiant Sun, whom mild-eyed EuryphaŽssa
bore to the son of the Earth and starry Heaven;
For Hyperion married glorious EuryphaŽssa,
his own sister, who bore him lovely children :
rosy-armed Aurora, rich-tressed Selene and
tireless Helion who is like the immortal gods.
As he rides his chariot he shines down on men
and immortal Gods, his gaze piercing from under
his gold helmet. Bright rays beam from him,
dazzling, and his bright locks stream from his temples
gracefully framing his far-seen face.
A rich, fine-spun garment glows upon his body
and flutters in the wind: his stallions carry him...
then, when he has stopped his golden-yoked chariot and horses,
he rests on high before diving through Heaven down to the Ocean.
Hail! Lord. Give me, in your kindness, a life to please my heart.