TITLE: A Holy Person Falls into the Nile as a Pelican
CAT# (YEAR COMPOSED): #37 (1997)
INSTRUMENTATION: for clarinet and horn
DURATION (APPROX): 9’02
PREMIERE PERFORMANCE: Michelle Doyle-Ronkin and Jeremy Ronkin, February 1998 in Green Lake, Wisconsin
A transliteration of the burial text of the Pyramid of Unas, an Egyptian ruler of the 4th century B.C. was the key to opening the door to a hidden and ancient sound world. The significance of the burial text lies in the manifestation of the rite of passage, in which the King, in order to ascend to the heavens had to pass through a series of tests in order to gain his rightful seat at the throne of the immortals.
The performance of this piece is an attempt to follow the ritual of Unas. The musical expression that involves extended techniques is, in essence, a visitation to Egyptian antiquity with the wish to make manifest the magic of the ancients. However, this is not a common grave-robbery, as the rite is not followed verbatim and is neither the will nor intent to propose that symbols of the burial text gain significance through performance.
The title of the piece comes from the hieroglyphics of the east wall of the entrance chamber of the Pyramid of Unas (a Pharaoh of Ancient Egypt, and the last ruler of the Fifth dynasty from the Old Kingdom. His reign has been dated as falling between 2375 BC and 2345 BC.)
The interior of this small pyramid at Saqqara (near Cairo in Egypt), originally named “Beautiful are the places of Unas” is decorated with a number of reliefs detailing events during his reign as well as a number of inscriptions.
It is believed that within the inscriptions of the Pyramid Text in Unas’s tomb, there are also some lines of a Semitic dialect, written in Egyptian script and comprising the earliest evidence of written Semitic language.
Unas’s texts contains verses and spells which were intended to help the king in overcoming hostile forces and powers in the Underworld and thus join with the Sun God Ra, his divine father in the afterlife. The king would then spend his days in eternity sailing with Ra across the sky in a solar boat.
These texts I used not only as inspirational but also as generative principles regarding extra-complex sonorities, pitches and form.
RECORDINGS: by Matthias Badczong & Aki Yamauchi “Butterfahrt 2011”, 22 June 2011, 8:30 p.m. at Kulturzentrum naTo in Leipzig
The following text by a Thomas Chr. Heyde for the European premiere in Leipzig:
“… the historical weight of these texts leads Edgerton but not to a musical heaviness. Quite the contrary, … it is a very playful duet of clarinet and horn. Nevertheless, Edgerton is also careful with the musical material. Here one finds again a central tone and tone groups as well as rhythmic patterns that vary through the entire multi-part work.”