...towards a pure land - Jonathan Harvey
A small string ensemble, hidden on the stage, starts this work and stays peacefully behind the sound for much of the time. It is called the Ensemble of Eternal Sound. The main orchestra moves through varied types of idea until a central point, after which it moves progressively back to the first idea, making an arch, but an arch with developments. The centre itself is not solid; rather it is an emptiness, an empty presence. There is sound but only insubstantial pitch. In the surrounding music, the tempi are often fluid, the ideas are fleeting: things arise, then cease, in an unending flow. To grasp them and fix them would be to distort them falsely. A Pure Land is a state of mind beyond suffering where there is no grasping. It has also been described in Buddhist literature as landscape—a model of the world to which we can aspire. Those who live there do not experience ageing, sickness or any other suffering. There is no poverty or fighting, and no danger from fire, water, wind or earth. The environment is completely pure, clean, and very beautiful, with mountains, lakes, and trees and delightful birds revealing the meaning of Dharma. There are also gardens filled with heavenly flowers, bathing pools and exquisite jewels covering the ground that make it completely pure and smooth. “Touching it gives rise to bliss.”
This work is the first fruit of the composer’s association with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and their principal conductor, Ilan Volkov. It is the first of three commissions from them and is dedicated to them in gratitude.