You Were Once Darkness


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You Were Once Darkness is written for advanced string trio with abundant use of extended techniques plus challenging rhythms and harmonies. Suitable for use in recitals or chamber concerts.

The music follows a redemptive arc, a journey from dark to light, from chaos to repose. It’s not meant to be auto-biographical but to be meaningful to anyone who has known the sweetness of overcoming personal brokenness, whether it might be addiction, self-destruction, religious deliverance, or other crisis. It approaches the topic from the perspective of overcoming self. The harmonies, rhythms, and timbres of the piece strive to portray this transition.

The age-old metaphors of darkness for ill and light for good are featured characters in the music. In particular, the title refers to a line from the Apostle Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus, “You were once darkness but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light, for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness, and truth.”

“You Were Once Darkness” uses the melody from a very familiar Christmas carol but it is highly camouflaged and difficult to distinguish. Although it forms the backbone of the music it also, as our own backbones do, remains mostly unobserved. Clues do peak through the darkness, so to speak, from time to time so the attentive listener may discern the melody by the end.

The music sounds edgy and unfamiliar even though it only uses the notes of the C-major scale (all the white keys on the piano). This is achieved using techniques developed by Estonian composer Arvo Pärt which employ rules-based writing, typically using a simple scale over a single major or minor accompanying chord. The concept sounds simple but that does not make it easy to write or to play. The technique produces an interplay of dissonance and consonance that creates a fascinating variation of sound much as a kaleidoscope does with color.

Robert Myers

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