Music by Stephen Travis PopeAwards: see lists and laurels below
Videos by R. Lane Clark, Haru Ji, S. T. Pope, Lance J. Putnam and Graham Wakefield
Released on BluRay disc by HeavenEverywhere, 2018
(More download links below)
2021 has been a Very Busy Year!
2020 was a Busy Year!
Riveting - a tour de force - a hypnotic flow - this is deep electroacoustic music - a fluid and engaging rhythmic and harmonic sense - works both as music and as ritual - incredibly profound - the sonic landscape is pristine - mesmerizing - I can't wait to see it again!
1: Jerusalem's Secrets, Lamentatio - 19:50
2: Leur Songe de la Paix (Their Dream of Peace) - 10:54
3: Evigt Dröm (Eternal Dream): A Ritual - 22:56
4: Credo - 12:24
5: Ora penso invece che il mondo... (Today, however, I think that the world...) - 10:52
Watch the SDFW Trailer on vimeo
Watch the 21-minute SDFW short-subject (1 section from each of the 5 parts) on vimeo (password = 11223344)
Page with clips and frames from Secrets, Dreams, Faith and Wonder
Down-load a ZIP file of production stills
Download a ZIP file of the promotional flyer and docs
Download PDF presentation slides about SDFW
Watch the 15-minute tour/sampler from Ritual and Memory
Secrets, Dreams, Faith and Wonder is a feature-length abstract music/video ritual of thanksgiving in five parts: (1) a lament of surrender (Jerusalem's Secrets), (2) the reading of the lesson (Leur Songe de la Paix), (3) the celebration of the ritual (Evigt Dröm), (4) the recitation of the creed (Credo), and (5) a hymn of benediction (Ora penso invece che il mondo...). When looked at this way, it follows the structure of rituals of gratitude celebrated throughout the ages and across cultures and religions (and especially the Catholic Mass). The five pieces of music incorporate voices in Latin, English and Arabic (texts from the Bible, by M. L. King and M. K, Gandhi) as well as bird and whale songs. Each of the videos was made to fit the music of the respective movement.
Each of the five parts has its own tonal and timbral language, and yet they fuse into a whole when viewed as a single large-scale work. The two inner parts (Leur Songe de la Paix and Credo) have text subtitles incorporated into the videos (texts by Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mohandas K. Gandhi, respectively), while the other parts each has a related text of some sort.
The motivation for Secrets, Dreams, Faith and Wonder, for making a new mass for the new millennium, is summed up in the following paraphrased quote from the late Joseph Campbell, 'Those who have heard the rhythms and hymns of the angels, who have understood any of the words of the angels, will try to recite those hymns in such a way that the angels will be attracted."
In intact societies, people organize their lives around regular rituals that celebrate all manner of milestones and life-transitions. Many of these rituals have evolved over generations and incorporate our most important teachings about the human character, our families and communities, and the role that spirituality plays in our day-to-day lives. Our rituals also reflect and encode our shared social metaphors and generally reinforce the societal power structures of the group that promotes them.
The music/video pieces collected in Secrets, Dreams, Faith, and Wonder form a ritual of thanksgiving in five parts: (1) a lament of surrender, (2) the reading of the lesson, (3) the celebration of the ritual, (4) the recitation of the creed, and (5) a hymn of benediction. When looked at this way, it closely mirrors the structure of the Catholic mass as well as other rituals of gratitude celebrated throughout the ages and across cultures and religions. Each of the five parts of Elements has its own tonal and timbral language, and yet they fuse into a whole when viewed as a single large-scale work. The two inner parts (Leur Songe de la Paix and Credo) have text subtitles incorporated into the videos (texts by Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mohandas K. Gandhi, respectively), while the other parts each has a related text of some sort.
The motivation for Secrets, for making a new mass for the new millennium, is summed up in the following paraphrased quote from the late Joseph Campbell, "Those who have heard the rhythms and hymns of the angels, who have understood any of the words of the angels, will try to recite those hymns in such a way that the angels will be attracted."
At the start of the year 2000, after the Y2K "new millennium" festivities had died out, I collected the texts that were to become Jerusalem's Secrets, Leur Songe de la Paix and Credo (from the Bible, rock song lyrics, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Mohandas Gandhi, respectively), and with them, I laid out the form of a new dramaturgy of the traditional mass. The five parts were to correspond as metaphorical settings of the main stages of the common mass: 1) kyrie/lament, 2) reading/teaching, 3) sacrament/ritual/mystery, 4) sharing of the creed, and 5) benediction.
The Joseph Campbell quote cited above about making "hymns in such a way that the angels will be attracted," served as the guiding mantra for all stages of the music composition and video creation. Each of the five parts of Secrets would be a setting of the chosen text together with instrumental, environmental, and (just a few) electronic sounds to create a series of "rooms" or "places" in which strong forces from the texts are active (i.e., "the angels will be attracted"). The benediction was to be a simple piece of instrumental chamber music without words. In contrast to much of my earlier work, these pieces would be "sound collages" in multiple short movements, and would establish, from the first moments of Jerusalem's Secrets, a very slow tempo (to set the text as deliberately as possible), and an emphasis on the bass registers and spatial reverberation.
I started working with the voices (esp. of Gandhi, King, and the Latin chanting of Krenek's Lamentatio), and collected the unprocessed whale song sources, but hadn't planned what form the actual ritual would take, the replacement for the sacrament of communion. During 2000-01, Leur Songe de la Paix took shape, incorporating some voice sources from my earlier works SensingSpeakingSpace and 4 Magic Sentences (which were released by Absinthe Records and Electronic Music Foundation, NY, respectively) to set alongside Martin Luther King, Jr's voice.
In 2001, I received a commission for a large-scale electronic piece for the tenth anniversary of the Swedish "KREV" artists movement (www.elgaland-vargaland.org); the piece was supposed to revisit materials from my earlier KREV-related processed-voice piece All Gates are Open (1991-92, released by the Electronic Music Foundation, NY). The piece that resulted from this was GatesStillOpen (released on Touch/Ash CDs, London in 2002) which had a series of performances in 2002-06 and gradually took on the ritual aspects and live video remixes (of preludes and postludes) as it evolved into the music/video piece Evigt Dröm (completed in 2006, with the new video by Lance Putnam being made in 2011). This was obvious as the choice for the central part of the new mass (which still had no title); it was to serve as the sacrament, rite of communion or mystery.
After the early performances of Leur Songe de la Paix in 2002/3 (which took place in the context of the build-up to America's latest round of mid-east wars, making the text all the more poignant) my friend, fellow Quaker and co-conscientious-objection-counsellor Lane Clark offered to make a video for the piece, which we premiered in 2004.
In 2005, the German radio authority (through my old friend Clarence Barlow) commissioned a short piece for string quartet (with or without electronics) for a festival marking the 50th anniversary of the first computer-aided instrumental music (the Illiac Suite for String Quartet  by Lejaren Hiller and Leonard Isaacson). As unwise as it seemed to write something very simple, tonal and pretty for premiere and broadcast by the leading German quartet known for avant garde music (the Minguet Quartet), that's what I decided to do in Ora penso invece che il mondo..., which was premiered in Cologne in November, 2006 and was recorded and broadcast.
Also in 2005, Brian Eno and David Byrne made available the source audio tracks of two songs from their ground-breaking 1980-81 collaboration My Life in the Bush of Ghosts. They made a web site with the original multi-track recordings as high-quality sound files, and invited DJs and laptop composers alike to remix these and share the results. Thus, my vague plan of mixing the sounds (and voices) on these two songs (Help Me Somebody and A Secret Life) with the Latin chanting of Krenek"s Lamentatio to create the "new kyrie" of Jerusalem"s Secrets became possible.
With the central pieces complete, the concept of a new "periodic table of the elements of the spirit" appeared and the final title of the mass was born. It took from 2006 until mid-2009, however, to develop the proper treatment for Gandhi's voice and mix and layer the whale songs for Credo, and then to produce the videos for Credo and Ora penso....
The videos for these five pieces evolved according to their own paths, with the first two parts to appear (Leur Songe de la Paix and Evigt Dröm) being contributed by my long-time friends Lane Clark and Erik Pauser after they had heard the music in concerts in 2002/3. These two videos are included in the Electronic Music Foundation's 2007 triple-disc release of my music called Ritual and Memory.
I formulated the basic ideas for the videos for Credo and Ora penso... early in the process, but both of these had to wait several years for the technology required for their realization to become available. In the first case (Credo), the missing technology pieces were executable algorithmic models of the Calabi-Yau shapes that are known in string theory, and multi-core server farms fast enough (and cheap enough) to perform the complex ray-tracing seen in the video. The video for Ora penso... required a system for the simulation of "artificial life" that was powerful and flexible enough to scale from cosmic-scale to cellular-scale, and efficient enough to support real-time navigation and response to music played into the virtual world. Luckily the "Artificial Nature" software was developed just in time by Haru Ji and Graham Wakefield, graduate students in the MAT graduate program at UCSB. By late 2009, all the music for Secrets was done except for getting a useable recording of Ora Penso... and I could focus on the HD rendering of the videos and BluRay mastering.
As to the title, the periodic table of the chemical elements tells us what the fundamental components of matter are, and how they relate to one-another. The form of the modern periodic table of matter was developed in the 1860s by Dmitri Mendeleev and Lothar Meyer, but before that, chemists over the ages had identified and analyzed many of the elements in it. The periodic table organized the known elements and identified the periodicities and interrelationships in their properties. It also enabled us to understand the responses of the chemical elements to the fundamental forces of nature such as electromagnetism. The test of the power of the periodic table came after Mendeleev had predicted the existence of several new elements, which were later discovered to have the properties he had predicted for them from the periodic table.
The title of [Periodic Table of the Elements of the Spirit -] Secrets, Dreams, Faith and Wonder, invites the listener/viewer to think about what the other elements of spirit might be, and about how these elements are related to one another, to the fundamental forces of spirit, to our emotions and thoughts, and to whatever other manner of spirit-beings might be in this space together with us.
It is an ironic accident (O felix culpa) that the titles of the five pieces that constitute Secrets are in five different languages (English, French, Swedish, Latin, and Italian, respectively). It is an even stranger coincidence that the first and last movements each lean heavily on music composed at the height of World War II by two composers (Ernst Krenek and Olivier Messiaen) whose countries were at war with one another, and who had both suffered greatly due to the war (Krenek as an outcast and exile, and Messiaen as a prisoner). Lastly, it should be noted that the videos for the two central movements (Evigt Dröm and Credo) are each based on scientific visualizations of equations that play important roles in modern physics. Lance Putnam’s video for Evigt Dröm is based on an iterated function system derived from particle physics, and Credo uses a visualization of the evolving shape of the Calabi-Yau manifold that is central to string theory.
Returning to the element of ritual, and the use of this video as liturgical music, Secrets can best be combined with the audience member's personal mode of centering, meditation, contemplative prayer, or gathered meeting. Pauses of from one to several minutes can be placed between the pieces (i.e., by pushing <PAUSE> on the player), and other readings can be inserted if desired.
The structure of Secrets is a metaphor for the world (geographically) and for the 20th century (historically). Secrets opens with Jerusalem's Secrets, which has prominent sonic references (esp. the long drones, and severe bass notes) to Asian noise music; these are intended to be reminiscent of the works of Masami Akita “Merzbow” and Zbigniew Karkowski. This brings with it references to the futurism of the early 20th century, and to fluxus and noise/drone music. The first element is water and secrets.
The transition in the 2nd part of Leur Songe—with the quoted orchestral note from Mahler followed by the entrance in the 3rd part with the morse code—moves to European mid-century music, especially French “musique concrete” and German “elektronische Musik.” This is strongest in Evigt Dröm with the “text-sound” usage of the human and synthetic voices, and with the mix of strict structure and wild improvisation. The second element is air and dreams.
Lastly, the transition in the 2nd part of Credo (voice of Mohandas Gandhi) moves to American minimalism and “international romanticism” leaning especially on the string music of Lou Harrison and John Luther Adams, which is clearly audible in Ora penso, and brings with it the use of “melodicles” and polyrhythms (4/5/6/7). The third element is fire and wonder.
Full Secrets Program Notes