I once attended a church service where people around me kept saying prayers aloud. It struck me how they knew exactly which sentences to pronounce at what time and at what speed they had to be read.
They seemed to know all those ritual - and in themselves very meaningful - phrases by heart, but they pronounced the lyrics monotonously and flatly, in my opinion, without any emotion audible to me: apparently because that's how they did it every Sunday. What I heard therefore sounded at once intensely mystical and full of meaning as well as thoughtless, cold, gloomy and hopeless. For although the texts clearly showed the opposite, when I listened to these apparently thoughtless and monotonous praying people, I experienced precisely the desolation, the coldness and the lack of compassion of this world; I just felt more lonely between them.
That strange contrast intrigued me and formed the basis for this piece.
At the beginning of Herschepping (which means re-creation), you hear the female voices in the choir speak the first sentences of the poem softly and at the same pitch, as if they were praying just like before those people in the church: monotonous, gloomy, without any emotion.
But those very first sentences describe the enormous impact of the disaster that has unfolded: it is terrible to lose the one you loved, on whom your world was based and who was pretty much your main reason for being.
You are left small, helpless and lonely afterwards. The world has ended and you are lost in a black night without stars.
The phrases at the beginning of Herschepping are therefore intense, mystical and full of meaning in text. But they only describe in sound in a monotonous way the disaster that has taken place and you are not comforted by it. The voices magnify even more the disastrous sorrow at saying her name which was beautiful and alive, and whose sound was the very opposite of the monotonous gloom that sounds.
You can also hear that in the music.
The sadness goes on and on, until finally black loneliness is all that remains.
Then, however, nourished by the moisture of your own tears, spring flowers gently begin to grow from the same soil in which your loved one is buried. And that opulence of flowers is, after all, a symbol of return: the return of the love that has always been there.
For your beloved, though dead, still continues to bestow upon you a wealth of love through those flowers.
Once you can see that, then there is so much love that eventually you can even hear the birds again that seemed to have stopped singing so long ago.
Herschepping is based on the poem of the same name by Gerrit Achterberg (from the collection
Verzamelde gedichten (collected poems), Athenaeum-Polak & van Gennep, Amsterdam 2003, 13th edition).
De wereld is vergaan,
haar naam spelde een nieuw getal,
het licht viel van de sterren af:
Eenzaam lag de goede grond te wenen
over zoveel wederkeer
van liefde en haar weelde
sloeg in lentebloemen neer
En de vogelen vervolgden
het lied dat lang geleden was gestaakt
zo ongemerkt, dat wij vergaten
hoe het tot zwijgen was geraakt
The world is gone,
her name spelled a new number,
the light fell from the stars:
Lonely weeping lay the good ground
about so much return
of love and its wealth
precipitated in spring flowers
And the birds continued
the song that had stopped long ago
so unnoticed that we forgot
how it came to be silenced