Illuminations is inspired by central themes found in Walter M. Miller’s science-fiction classic A Canticle for Leibowitz. A Canticle for Leibowitz is set at the Abbey of Saint Leibowitz many millennia after a nuclear holocaust. The book is in three sections and each section is centuries removed from the previous setting. The monks of the abbey relive the Dark Ages, Renaissance, and modern times all while preserving the “memorabilia” from the previous civilization.
Rather than compose music to function as a “soundtrack” to the novel, I chose to focus on the theme of “illumination” and the forms in which that theme is found in each of the three sections of the text. In each of the three sections of A Canticle for Leibowitz, characters undergo various transformations through illumination. The first section centers on a monk who is illuminating an an- cient blueprint. Illumination hits two characters in the middle section of the novel once they argue their way to their core beliefs. Finally, after a nuclear bomb explosion in the final section, a dying abbott sees an event that fills him with hope while the rest of his order leave Earth for a hopeful future.
Illuminations begins plainly and simply. As the music unfolds, it becomes more ornate and elaborate until finally, and abruptly, stopping. The center of the piece reflects the energy of the argument in which monolithic chords in the full ensemble alternate with spry and facile concertino moments. Eventually the two musics collide and erupt in the piece’s climax. The final third is deli- cate and serene representing a desire for peace and stillness.
Download the score: Illuminations