Creations began as a commission for a television pilot. The plan was to enlist major composers and visual artists to illustrate selected chapters from the Bible – these to be narrated by Sir Laurence Olivier. Alas, the venture never came to pass, and I’d thought my music for the pilot would never be heard again. Then, happily, Lucas Foss, eager to program a work of mine on a religious subject, commissioned a revision of the piece for live performance and gave its premiere with his Milwaukee Symphony in October of 1984. It’s that version that is recorded here for the first time.
Creations challenged me to write specifically for a recorded medium. It also offered me the chance to build music more abstractly than I’d done before; often, in this case, out of pure sonority, rather than harmony and line. Much of my later work uses techniques I developed for the first time while scoring Creations.
The Creation of the World
I envisioned the music for this section as growing from abstract sounds into actual themes. Tone clusters, glissandi, and non-pitched fragments depict the creations of heaven and earth, day and night, land and sea. A four-note motive divides each day’s creations from the next. Then, the language describing the first living things (“grass, the herb yielding seed, the fruit trees yielding fruit”) in turn yields the music’s first thematic utterances. As each new creation evolves (“sea creatures, fowl and flying birds, the beasts of the earth”), so, too, the music germinates ever longer and more complex themes – the last and most elaborate theme, derives from the four-note “night” motive, heralding the creation of man. The movement closes in tranquility, as the music for man and the music for the animals of the earth engage in quiet dialogue.
The Creation of Adam and Eve
The music of man and the creatures of the earth reappears, transformed, in this section. Genesis itself, closely read, gave me my method of outlining these characters. I made the woman’s theme from the same four-note motive that had yielded man’s theme. And I shaped the serpent’s music from a sinuous 12-tone row, presented on a piano made sibilant by placing paper upon its strings.
This is dramatic music, arching to a much higher climax than does The Creation of the World. It’s in the music at that climax (“and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat”) that one can hear many of the aleatoric and sonoric devices that I found so enriching to my later compositions.