Fall and Resurrection tries to encompass, in brief glimpses, the events which have taken place since the beginning of time, and before time. The work begins in total silence, in the Paradise of God. After the silence of the beginning, a series of very hushed, deep notes spirals into a quiet but very complex uncreated chaos, in which all the potentials of good and evil are heard, and over a period of about five minutes the music travels ferociously, dissonantly and ever more loudly into a colossal storm. As I said, all the possibilities of good and evil are present in this uncreated chaos, therefore every single note carries with it a metaphysical significance although, because of the huge proliferation of the notes, this cannot be heard by the human ear. In fact, all the material of the piece (which is based on the Byzantine chant Ton Stauron sou - Thy Cross we adore) is contained in this unrelenting sound.
Out of this chaos, God loved the world into being; a paradise, a monody, without confusion. Adam and Eve sing openly, primordially, to God and to each other. Then comes the cosmic catastrophe, as the rams-horn sounds from on high. After this, fear, shame, sorrow and death enter as the first section closes - "Paradise lost". Patristic theology tells us of the Divine original state, representing a series of divine theophanies; and even in the fallen state, it is seen to present forms whose contemplation may lead the mind back to an awareness of divine beauty. The link is the Prophets, because they saw in the darkness.
In the second section of the work, verses or hints from the prophets and the Psalmist (the Divine David) are sung by a countertenor, interspersed with dance-like music for the kaval, which is a form of the nay flute. The Fall was once and for all, but we have the choice of life or death through the Incarnation of the Logos and the Resurrection. The doctrine of the God-man refers also and equally to the theandric union between God and the whole created world, through man and in man. Hence, in the third and final section, the introduction of the Grand Organ in all its magnificence, at the Incarnation/Creation, represents an eternal act, which from the side of God is above time altogether, since it pertains to the eternal act of the generation of the Logos.
At the moment of the Crucifixion, an apparent return to the thunderous cacophony of the uncreated Chaos occurs. Indeed, the Crucifixion is an unwitting effort by humanity to destroy the Divine order, but this anti-God effort fails, because it is impossible to destroy the Divine. Everybody and every created thing possesses the capacity to move from an imperfect harmony with God to the perfect harmony achieved when the personal logos and sophia of each created being is the effective and determinative subject of that being. The prototype is Mary Magdalene, when she prostrates herself before Christ. Ravoni she sings, with gentle ecstasy, as Eve is redeemed. This rare and simple recognition of Christ, on one level, without esotericism, just pure loving, shows that all of us may join in the Cosmic Dance of the Resurrection. This cosmic Dance is the affirmation of all creation, and the promise of fulfilment which we cannot see.
So, in one sense, Fall and Resurrection is a kind of musical metaphysics, but it came to me as a vision. In either case, I hope that it contains a message of hope for the next millennium. The beauty and love with which the Holy Spirit quickens the celestial image-archetypes are identical to the beauty and love with which He quickens their created counterparts. And just as it is Divine beauty that sets in motion the movement whereby God reveals His potentiality in manifest forms, so it is the same beauty which rouses in created beings the aspiration for higher existence that is latent in all of us.
This work should ideally be performed in a building with a large acoustic. The resonance of beautiful ancient instruments - the kaval, the rams-horn trumpet and the Tibetan temple bowls - brings to mind and soul something primordial, something lost, something innocent, something wild and untamed.
Fall and Resurrection is dedicated to HRH The Prince of Wales, and it is written in loving memory of my Father.
I don't think my heart was alone in leaping to the sheer excitement of Tavener's theatricals… And it would be hard to judge who didn't find in Fall and Resurrection something not just transcendently impressive and encouraging: alive with a determined optimism for the new and unknown world we've all been shovelled into by Millennial arithmetic. For that alone it towered above the general cultural level of the New Year junketing.
Michael White, Independent on Sunday, 01/01/2000