Eos and the desire to stare into the sun (2011)

There is a moment in which one wonders if everything he has learned is false; that one should stare directly into the sun.  It's a short moment.  In the summer I observed the following sequence of events from 4-6am near a lighthouse on Lake Michigan:

 

1.  Still Night - violet and rather cold.  A moment held safe from both insomniacs and ambitious joggers.

2.  A dim, gray-yellow aura folding just over the very edge of the water.  This seemed to last quite a while.

3.  An encroaching light-purple radiance taking the Eastern Hemisphere and the final moment of true violet 

in the West.

4.  Warm colors completing an expansive color spectrum overhead.  A giant rainbow, bloated in the cool.

5.  Orange in a thick band across the horizon, yellow-frosted, creating a false landscape of what appeared as 

a distant mountain range.  Clouds?

6.  Day.  A buzzing yellow overtakes the sky quickly, leaving the moon intact.  A long pause in which one 

wonders, given the amount of light, whether the sun has already risen and is timidly draped in cloud.

7.  Sunrise, at last.  All at once the enormous crescent of a sangria sun blossoms from the horizon with 

remarkable speed.  One can easily focus on the sun itself, a drop of blood at first, shrinking through 

orange before shooting up with great speed and floating away as a yellow balloon.  At some point one 

must reduce his focus to concentrate merely on the vicinity, and eventually, away from the sun entirely.

 

The opening of Eos is inspired by this sunrise sequence, which was in fact quite fluid.  The seven moments I perceived (or imagined) do remain true, but it's a creative truth.  Eos is neither programmatic nor narrative in form.  However, the initial image of the peaceful sunrise followed by the fantastic, ecstatic, and terrifying act of staring into the sun may provide some useful imagery for the visual listener.

 

In Eos, I employed harmonies I considered consonant (e.g., the final chord), which by tradition would be called dissonant.  A recent fascination with interference (a.k.a combination tones or heterodynes) caused me to reconsider the question of consonance, and by extension an artist's complex relationship to beauty.  With the analogy of the life-giving, creative energy of the sun, and the desire to stare into it, I began to wonder:  Is beauty universal?  Is the artist's goal to reproduce/capture beauty?  Do we listen to music in order to hear what we consider beautiful?  These are questions not answered, but asked in this music.

 

Eos was commissioned by the Chicago Chamber Music Society and written for the Borromeo Quartet performing in the video above at the premiere.

© 2019 by Ben Hjertmann, all rights reserved.