Songs of the Questioner brings us down the path that each of us takes as we recede into our minds to question important aspects of life. The literary device of the question mark is transmuted from a visual image on the page into a musical concept played by the piano; low pedal tones and broad, swirling harmonies in upper registers represent the ball and curl of the question mark respectively. The chorus and piano parts also have an unusual relationship in this work. The piano part contains the emotional heart of the work, the internal feeling of questioning oneself; the choir effectively “translates” the music using the text. In this way the piano represents our subconscious and wordless thought stream; the choir is of the conscious mind that attempts to decipher this stream in real time.
There are many chant-like melodies within Songs of the Questioner, some of which are taken directly from the nightly compline service that we took part in during the Oxford institute. For me, chant embodies a point of contact between the natural mind and the human spirit, a brief moment in time when a community can reflect upon the connection between the physical world and whatever it is that animates us spiritually. As musicians deal in time, space, and the spirit constantly, the benefits of engaging in chant as a part of the questioning process cannot be overstated.
See the premier performance of The Questioner
Westminster Williamson Voices: James Jordan, Conductor University of Aberdeen Chamber Choir: Paul Mealor, Conductor