Genesis - Brass Band Major Work
Playing level : A grade/championship or strong 1st section
Genesis, by Dale Vail, is a major work for brass band based on the story of creation. The work is structured around the biblical story of the seven days of creation and combines this with the scientific theories of creation and evolution. Should one use the term 'day' as a metaphor for a period time, (thousands to billions of years), Vail has always been fascinated by the parallels between the book of Genesis, and our understanding of the known universe. The result is a very descriptive and provocative work that evokes the power and majesty of the creation process. The work uses leitmotifs to show the process of evolution, later combining motifs to create new images of the Earth's life.
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth”, is day one of creation. The band depicts this as a fiery “big bang”, depicting a massive surge of energy blasting out of the center of the universe, full of all the particles that will one day result in planets, stars, and life itself. The motif in the solo cornets becomes 'God’s Spirit', or in the scientific world, 'energy' - a force for creation that recurs throughout the work.
"Now the earth proved to be formless and waste and there was darkness upon the surface". The Earth is a rock, floating in the vast emptiness of space. Dark, barren and cold, with no special function or purpose. A cornet solo, based on 'stars' leitmotif, is performed in a minimalistic manner, depicting the cold vastness of space and the Earth's surface.
"Let light come to be", or famously known in other translations as, “let there be light”, is a brilliant, triumphant event that marks the beginning of the Earth as more than just a giant asteroid. The Earth slowly gets pulled into the gravitational field of a distant star; the light gets brighter and brighter, until finally the Earth settles into orbit, and the first official sunrise blazes over a blank canvas of a planet.
"Let an expanse come to be in between the waters". The two waters are the two blue surfaces, the ocean and the sky. A churning cloud of gases and chemicals fills the air as the sun cooks the earth, triggering chemical reactions and the beginning of a terraforming process. A beautiful rising melody through the band depicts gas clouds evaporating off the surface of the oceans, floating into the sky, to form the complete sky we know today. The sky is finished, with cornets and a flugelhorn performing a cadential ending to the section, but the rest of the Earth is not. Low brass rumbles with percussion as the heat has caused the tectonic plates to shift. When the surface can take no more, the crust bursts open.
"Let the dry land appear". Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, carnage as the ocean parts to make way for islands, countries, and whole continents, that pour out of the centre of the earth. Finally the Earth begins to settle. For the first time the Earth is in a state of recognisability, with land, oceans, and a sky.
"Let luminaries come to be in the expanse of the heavens". The volcanic gas clouds part ways to reveal for the first time, the rest of the universe: the stars in the night sky, which are a guide for travellers and a gift of beauty for all of creation. The Earth is now ready for its guests.
Focus shifts now from the sky to the ocean, and we delve into the deepest parts of the Earth's waters.
"Let the waters swarm forth a swarm of living souls". A euphonium cadenza and a duet with Eb bass depicts the first fish forming out of the microbes and amoeba. This moves into a euphonium duet, and a baritone duet as life begins to spread via sexual reproduction for the first time.
"Let the earth put forth living souls", the melody of life bursts out of the ocean, birds, mammals, reptiles, flourishing across the Earth.
"Let us make man in our image", "Male and female he created them". The first humans (Adam and Eve), develop out of the process of evolution from millions of years of life. “In our image”, refers to conscious thought, not physical appearance. A personality full of curiosity, a desire to create, love, and understand the world around them.
Finally, we enter the seventh day of creation - God’s day of rest. "Fill the earth and subdue it", as the humans are left to their own devices. They begin to take over the earth, create infrastructure, religion, laws, technology. A cocky inversion of Adam and Eve's theme drives the march, which builds and builds until it loses control, turning into an apocalyptic dystopian world, where humanity has brought its own destruction upon itself thanks to their reckless destruction of the Earth beneath their feet - "the war of the great day of God”. Biblically, this is the battle between God and the Devil, for the right to guide humanity; scientifically, it is the moment of truth: whether or not humans have already done too much damage, and wether or not we can still fix our planet. A battle between sinful traits such as greed and pride, or moral traits such as love and patience.
"a new heaven and a new earth" - the eighth day of creation. God has finished his period of rest, and defeated the Devil’s influence over humankind, and is ready to lead the universe into a new period of creation, guidance and wisdom. Scientifically, humans have triumphed over the corruption and greed taking our kind to a fiery death at the hands of global warming or nuclear war and have set on a new path to make sure that we never make the same mistakes again.
My hope is that this work gives people a new understanding of the world around us. It is a wakeup call to appreciate not only the magnificence of creation, but the terror that if we’re not careful, in our little blip of an existence we could bring about the end of billions of years' worth of creation.