The Book of Revelation

for Soloists, Choir, and Full Orchestra

I. Prologue

II. The Throne in Heaven

III. The Seven Seals

IV. The Seven Trumpets

V. The War in Heaven / The Two Beasts

VI. The Seven Vials

VII. The Fall of Babylon

VIII. Alleluia

IX. The Final Judgment

X. The New Heaven

The idea for The Book of Revelation came to me as early as 2009 or 2010. The detailed imagery and exciting narrative events have always struck me as extremely musical and begged to be set into a dramatic musical work. My earliest sketches for the work came in 2011 or 2012, but due to the size of the project I had envisioned, I set the idea aside for a while. I eventually returned to it in 2018, at which point I more or less started from scratch.

 

The Book of Revelation is written in 10 movements; however, the story isn’t quite told in a linear fashion. Based on some scholars’ analysis of Revelation, much of the text is the same story told several times from different perspectives. My approach to the music follows this idea. Movements 1 and 2 establish a pseudo introduction to Revelation while movements 9 and 10 constitute a coda. This leaves movements 3 through 7, where essentially several angles of the apocalyptic story of Revelation are told, more or less, simultaneously. Movement 8, while it technically continues and concludes the story from movement 7, also serves as a parallel codetta for all of the simultaneous stories from movements 3 through 6.

 

I felt this concept of simultaneity was best illustrated through reoccurring musical themes that illustrate many aspects of Revelation such as the characters, places, and events of the book. Some of the most prominent character themes include Jesus, Satan, and various figures like angels and demons, while some of the most prominent locational themes include Heaven, Earth, and New Jerusalem. Additionally, a significant number of the themes in the work illustrate specifically described events from the text. Notably, the destruction of the earth, the opening of God’s temple in heaven, and the fall of Babylon each have their own themes. All of these themes make frequent appearances throughout the work, some more than others, but all of them in multiple movements each. Contrarily, nearly every movement is also grounded by a theme exclusive to that movement, such as the “seven seals” theme for movement 3, or the “seven trumpets” theme for movement 4.

 

To describe these themes in detail would take many pages; however, it is worth mentioning that all of the themes fall into three categories of tonality that give them some semblance. First, all of the heavenly themes such as the Jesus or throne in Heaven theme, follow a modal or pandiatonic tonality. The modal quality alludes to a Renaissance church-like sound, while the pandiatonicism leads to an uplifting, pleasing, and clean sound. In contrast, the themes of death and evil are often octatonic or lack tonality altogether. Both octatonicism and atonality lead to a menacing and sometimes uncomfortable sound. Lastly, the themes representing earthly things are composed used mainly tonal, but chromatic, functional harmonies. This allows for a contrast from the other heavenly and dark themes. Additionally, the chromaticism helps to demonstrate the constant tension occurring on Earth as many of the events of Revelation unfold.

 

As a whole, The Book of Revelation hopes to musically illustrate, in some comprehensive capacity, the scripture of Revelation, as described to the apostle John nearly 1900 years ago. The text used for this work comes from the King James Version of the Bible first completed in 1611 and remains public domain in the United States of America. Lasting just under 90 minutes, this oratorio is scored for Soprano, Mezzo-soprano, Tenor, and Baritone Soloists, Choir, and a full orchestra consisting of triple woodwinds with standard doublings, full brass, timpani plus three percussionists, piano/celesta, harp, organ, and strings. The female soloists play a variety of roles mostly consisting of angels and various “voices of heaven,” while the tenor soloist exclusively portrays the role of John and the baritone soloist portrays both Jesus and God.

The War Heaven [Stand-alone work with excerpts from movement V]

for Full Orchestra [3.3.3.3(w/std.aux)-4.3.3.1-T+3-pno.hp.-strings]

About 6 minutes

Premiered by The Florida Orchestra, February 2022 on their 2021-2022 Masterworks Series

Winning Composition for The Florida Orchestra's 2019 Student Composer Competition:

Three performances scheduled for May 2020 cancelled due to Covid-19.

Ever since first reading the book of Revelation, I have always been captivated by the imagery of the text. Such ideas as the seven trumpets, the four horsemen of the apocalypse, and the rapture have fascinated me for many years. On the brink of Beethoven’s 250th birthday, I thought this would be the perfect time to compose a new orchestral work.

Beethoven had some history of incorporating religious ideas into his music in addition to writing explicitly sacred works, such as his Mass in C Major. Beethoven is perhaps best known for the religious influence in the famous final movement of his ninth symphony with the “Ode to Joy” text. This text makes references to the “Heavenly One,” “a loving Father,” and even refers directly to “God.” Musically, I have always been drawn to the way Beethoven uses rhythms, both straight and with syncopation. In the third movement of his ninth symphony, the scherzo, Beethoven uses primarily straight forward rhythms but with a driving and exhilarating character. In the finale, syncopation becomes a huge compositional tool that drives the whole symphony to a close.

With my piece, The War in Heaven, I sought to include these two aspects of Beethoven’s work—the religious underpinnings and the importance of rhythm. The specific war that my piece refers to occurs in chapter 12 of the book of Revelation. Here, a dragon (Satan), follows Jesus into Heaven after he ascends from the earth. The angels in Heaven, led by the archangel Michael, fight the dragon to send it back to earth. Upon their success, the dragon seeks to ruin the earth, but the people on earth (the church) prevail. In order to best capture these events in music, I made use of driving rhythms and highly syncopated rhythmic accents to create the feeling of war.

The Final Judgment [stand-alone work with excerpts from movement II and the complete movement IX]

for Full Orchestra [3.2.2.2(w/picc)-4.3.3.1-T+2-pno.hp-strings]

About 7 minutes

The Final Judgment is a programmatic work that draws its narrative from chapter 20 of the book of Revelation. In this chapter, we see two distinct scenes described. First, an angel of Heaven binds up “the dragon” (Satan), for one thousand years. After this, in a second scene, a vision of Heaven, is shown. Here, we see a throne room, and those seated on the thrones are given the authority to judge over the living. But this scene is interrupted by a move back to the first scene, where the thousand years have ended, and Satan is let loose to wreak havoc on Earth. However, fires from Heaven will come down and consume him and his armies. This moment transitions the listener back to the second scene, where the Book of Life is brought before the thrones and the final judgment takes place based on what is found in the book.

Choral Selections from The Book of Revelation [excerpts from movements II, IV, and VI]

for a cappella SATB choir

I. Thou art worthy (about 3 minutes)

II. The kingdoms of this world (about 4 minutes)

I became interested in the book of Revelation many years ago following an in-depth study. Fascinated with the images and excitement of the book, I wanted to write a large choral work based on it, and using specific texts from the book. I recently began this project and composed these short choral works as a start towards the larger piece. "Thou art worthy" premiered by the Tampa Bay Master Chorale, directed by Brett Karlin in 2018 and "The kingdoms of this world" premiered by members of UH choirs, directed by Ryan Rogers.

Instrumentation: 

3.3.3.3(w/std.aux)-4.3.3.1-T+3-pno.hp-SopMezTenBarSolo+SATBch-org-strings

or

SopMezTenBarSolo+SATBch-piano/organ

 

Duration: 

Full version: About 90 minutes

Condensed version 1 (soloists and choir): About 60 minutes

Condensed version 2 (soloists only): About 35 minutes

Score and parts available for purchase.

Perusal score available on request.

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