Star Song V De Profundis
High above the village of Moustiers-Sainte-Marie in northern Provence there hangs a huge star. Suspended between two dramatic crags, on a chain over 700 feet long, it has been there from at least the 13th century and possibly much earlier. No one knows for certain when or why the star and its chain were erected, but inevitably many legends have grown up over the years to explain their origin, but one in particular has gained most acceptance. It concerns a 12th century knight, Blacas d’Aups, who was captured by the Saracens on a crusade to the Holy Land. During his captivity he made a vow that if he should ever return to his home village of Moustiers he would hang the chain and star that he wore around his neck across the valley as a token of thanksgiving.
In 1991 I wrote La Légende de l’Étoile for organ and percussion to explore themes of captivity and release, and since then I have written four further Star Songs that take that legend, and other legends associated with the star, as their starting points. Like its predecessors Star Song V uses material drawn from La Légende, reworking familiar musical ideas in new guises, with significant changes of emphasis and character.
The theme of captivity and hostage-taking is one that is still all too familiar in the often troubled world that we inhabit today, and in this new work, subtitled “De Profundis”, it is not always entirely clear whether the captive/hostage finds freedom. On the surface the music is a journey from darkness to light, from despair and imprisonment to a vision of homecoming and joy, but perhaps it is indeed all just a vision. The work consists of three movements or sections that run continuously, with music that draws on traditional melodies, crusader songs, Gregorian chant and hymns still heard in Moustiers today. The first section moves between moods of anger and despair to more reflective musings on death or release. The second takes us onto the battlefield (of the mind or in reality – who knows?) with music that has great energy, drama and vividness, with a quiet, still centre of prayer and dreams of home. The final section is inspired by the mountains, plateaus and warmth of the beloved Provence; but is the final paean of praise a celebration of homecoming or just another vision of hope?
Star Song V was commissioned by the Sheffield Philharmonic Orchestra, and first performed by the orchestra on November 12th 2005 in the Firth Hall, Sheffield under the direction of John Pearson.
© Christopher Brown 2005