Mat Campbell Music

Composer. Arranger. Conductor. Percussionist. Educator.

Far and Dark Places


Far and Dark Places takes the listener from the external to the internal and back again with nods to Freudian Personality Theory, The Divine Comedy, and self-reflection. This piece is modeled after the structure of Strauss’s Eine Alpensimphonie, and it is loosely composed in arch form. The movements with their corresponding program notes are as follows:

In respect to Freudian Personality Theory, these movements represent the Conscious Mind and our perception of how others see us.

I. Prelude: The opening of the work. Its primary purpose is to set the tone of the entire piece. This material encapsulates the rest of the work by incorporating simple phrases that are memorable, repetitive, and contemplative in nature. This movement serves as a prelude to the cognitive religious mass that is our sleep.

The original spoken text for this movement is as follows:

Far and Dark. Places we don’t want to see. Without them, though, we cannot be.

from the surface to within.

we will contemplate our sin.

Deeper and deeper we will go. Where we’ll stop

we cannot know.

The depths are calling.

We can’t stop fa l l i n g.

Into the abyss, we must go.

We mustn’t be afraid of what we already know.

Into ourselves is what we seek.

We will emerge with what we choose to keep.

II. Alarms of the Mind: While drifting off into sleep, our bodies jerk and twitch to regain control over our awakening minds. You can’t remember where you came from. To some, it is almost jarring. To others, it’s enticing. Identifying which one you relate to will determine how you perceive this journey. This movement serves as a lighthearted (but forewarning) dreamscape for what’s to come.

III. Virgil’s Mandelbrot: I’ve always been obsessed with Mandelbrot Set renderings. This fixed media movement serves as a descent further into subconscious. Incorporating the profile of Virgil from Dante’s The Divine Comedy, we bring religion into our foreground. Virgil, being the guide into the depths of Hell, takes our hand further in towards our innermost fears.

In respect to Freudian Personality Theory, these movements represent the Subconscious Mind and the deterioration of the Ego.

IV. Pulse: The harp represents the EKG machine that monitors our subconscious’s activity. Hallucinations of other-worldly beings dance around in our heads while we drift away. Don’t worry, it’s all in our minds. They can’t get you when you’re drifting away. As the harp slows, we drift further in to ourselves as our ego deteriorates.

V. Interlude I: In a pseudo-purgatory movement, the music comes from all around. We are stuck here for the foreseeable future. To some, this will feel long. Others, short. Either way, you’re here until you aren’t.

In respect to Freudian Personality Theory, these movements represent the Unconscious Mind and our innermost fears, desires, and hyper-reflective selves. This is our basic identity: This is the Id.

VI. Down and In: This is an elegy for our ego. It was originally written for solo harmonium, but the reed sound is best served in the wind ensemble version with single and double reed instruments.

The original spoken text for this movement is as follows:

Floatingly we wait

as our love defeats our hate.

Without worry I go

as a soul to and fro.

Floating

Waiting

and flowing.

and waning.

VII. Transmigration: Separated into three parts, Virgil takes you through the innermost circle of hell and the innermost part of ourselves. Here we encounter the Hymn of Fear (section one), which we encounter our biggest fears - tangible and conceptual, rational and irrational, peoples’ perception of us and our perception of ourselves. Section Two: Through the Center of the Universe goes further still to cross though Satan himself encapsulated in ice at the furthest point from Heaven. We look at our innermost being and emerge with grace and love for who we are. Section Three: Acceptance of Fears, helps us realize that we are still naturally good despite being imperfect. This section uses the Hymn of Fear material in a transformed way to represent how we should be transformed after crossing through the Center of the Universe.

In respect to Freudian Personality Theory, these movements represent the Subconscious Mind and reestablishment of the Ego but in a higher form.

VIII. Ascension: We ascend to the Garden of Eden after being through torment. Our version of Paradise is internal, but we can feel transformed and victorious.

In respect to Freudian Personality Theory, these movements represent the Conscious Mind and our perception of how others see us and how we now perceive ourselves.

IX. Alarms of the Body / Interlude II: The penultimate section brings us to awaken from our journey. Our bodies become conscious again as we only remember few details of our dream. What we remember is dependent on our perception of ourselves. What we remember is what we chose to keep.

X. Postlude: In a return to the point of departure, we listen to a backwards version of the original Prelude. This material washes over us as new creatures and we can share the love and appreciation for ourselves as we go about our daily lives.

The original spoken text for this movement is as follows:

As we end our journey

of sight and sound.

We know that what we see can only be

a passing memory

which we find to be profound.

Perhaps another perspective can shed even more light on this extremely dense synopsis (not for programs):

From Approaching the Divine Comedy

Reason is at the heart of our ability to be independent moral agents, capable of making choices, acting on our own free will. In Dante's world, and maybe ours too, it is the power we have to save ourselves from ourselves.

Dr. Gary Gutchess explains it so well in his online essay, "Dante and the Medieval Invention of the Self." The classical notion of the self (it's not even a word in the classical era, but we'll use it anyway) is passive. In important divine matters, the self is acted upon, not an agent of action. "The lightning bolt hit me, and I was possessed." Think of those colorful stories in Ovid that we read. "I was changed into a deer!" "I was changed into a bird!" "I was changed into a flower!" The self is an object acted upon, a vessel to be possessed, a puppet (in some cases) of the Divine Will. This is Oedipus, who suffers his fate because it is his fate, and he cannot change it. (Though Sophocles is such a great artist that and such a keen observer of human nature that he can problematize this view without seeming heretical.) The Renaissance, or modern view is that the self is active, a subject rather than an object. The Gods are removed, far away in the farthest heavenly sphere; people are front and center on the stage, taking action. They are agents of their own Free Will. "I see the light!" "I'm going towards the light!" (Or, Descartes, "I think therefore I am!") If the self is an actor on the stage and not just an object to be acted upon, then that implies the need for notions of "responsibility"—you make good choices or live with the consequences—"morality"—you have to recognize the difference between right and wrong choices—and "individuality"—your choices reveal your particular individual character. You have a unique personality that's all yours based on your own choices. And this is the aspect that Dante most insists on throughout the Inferno. You have free will, you have choices, you are an independent moral agent. You can neglect your responsibilities to yourself, to society, but you do it at a great risk of suffering the punishment for doing so.

So although The Divine Comedy is visionary, a long strange trip in the burgeoning tradition of religious mysticism that was characteristic of the late medieval period, it's also paradoxically, ultimately, a very down-to-earth human work. Most people who read it remember it vividly for the human portraits it presents more so than its theology. The humanity overwhelms the theology. Not God, but Dante the individual is the real focus of the work; no poem better illustrates the "self-centeredness" of this amazing period.

- Stacy Esch

The chamber version of Far and Dark Places is composed for Flute, Oboe, Clarinet (double Bass Clarinet), Soprano Saxophone (double Alto Saxophone), Percussion Quartet, Four Women’s Voices, String Quartet, Narrator (doubles Slideshow), Conductor (doubles Piano and Harmonium), and Offstage Rock Band: Electric Guitar (with Delay), Bass Guitar, Electric Piano (with Rhodes Organ sound), and Drumset.