Conductus super Ex Orientis Venerunt Magi

Jack Parton

About this work:

The work was conceived as an impression of the progress to and arrival of the magi in Bethlehem, but I increasingly like an alternate program suggested by a colleague, that the three sections of the work relate to further episodes of the Epiphany story: firstly the advent of the wise men; secondly the adoration at the manger, furtive departure of the magi, and the flight into Egypt; and finally the fury of Herod and massacre of the innocents.  "Conductus" is hence meant here more in the liturgical sense of a processional, although the kalideoscopic nature of early polyphonic works of that type is not a distant influence on sections of this piece.  Forming the work as a thematic metamorphosis of sorts reflects the episodic and narrative nature of such use; a more familiar procession might be the Stations of the Cross observed in Holy Week.  FInally, certain Asiatic ("Oriental") impressions influence the work, Balinese gamelan Kebyar and Japanese Taiko percussion notably.

The plainchant is from a small page, presumably from a book of hours or some similar small personal devotional volume, framed and in the possession of one of my college ear-training professors.  The full text would have been on the facing page, I would guess; the reverse of this page has a metric version in Latin of the Reges Tharsis et insulae text.  I have been unable to locate the full text of this hymn; its odd ten-syllable metric has been a source of much curiosity.  The E flat in the last line is obviously not true to the original tune; there is a flaw in the vellum or perhaps an ink bleed-through from the reverse of the page which always looked to me like a flat; when Dr. Merriman would have us solfege this tune from a photocopy I did enjoy specifically singing "may" instead of "mi" at that note, and this alteration being pleasing to both of us, it is always how I remember the tune.

Year composed: 2013
Duration: 00:13:00
Ensemble type: Orchestra:Standard Orchestra
Instrumentation: 1 Piccolo, 2 Flute, 2 Oboe, 1 English Horn, 2 Clarinet, 1 Bass Clarinet, 2 Bassoon, 1 Contrabassoon, 4 Horn in F, 2 Trumpet, 3 Trombone, 1 Tuba, 1 Timpani, 1 Marimba, 1 Xylophone, 1 Piano, 2 Violin, 1 Viola, 1 Cello, 1 Double bass, 1 Harp, 1 Other Brass Instrument(s), 2 Other Percussion Instrument(s)
Instrumentation notes: The "other" brass instrument is a piccolo trumpet

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