The Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) in Woods Hole, Massachusetts is forging an unprecedented creative alliance between the worlds of science and music. This fall the MBL will premiere a major musical work: the Missa Charles Darwin.
In the summer of 2010, the Woods Hole community was bowled over by the acclaimed male classical vocal quartet New York Polyphony in a performance at a private residence. The group then revealed its plan to embark on a groundbreaking creative enterprise with up-and-coming American composer Gregory Brown: setting the words of Charles Darwin to music. The framework for the composition elevated their proposed collaboration to something truly daring: employing the 5-movement structure of the Catholic Mass as a vehicle for excerpts from Darwin's seminal On The Origin Of Species, creating a modern secular Mass setting based on Darwin's words. Thus was born the Missa Charles Darwin. The decision to support the work on behalf of the MBL and to hold the premiere on the MBL campus was quickly made, with the enthusiastic support of the MBL Director, Dr. Gary Borisy.
But we need your support to make its performance is a reality.
WHAT IS THE MISSA CHARLES DARWIN?
The Missa Charles Darwin is a multi-movement composition scored for unaccompanied male vocal quartet. Based on the standard five-movement structure of the Mass, the Missa Charles Darwin honors the compositional and harmonic conventions of its musical antecedents. Unlike traditional Mass settings, however, the sacred texts have been replaced with excerpts from On The Origin Of Species, The Descent of Man, and Darwins extant correspondence.
The tradition of setting to music the sacred texts of the Massthe principal celebration of the Roman Catholic Churchwas established in the late Middle Ages. Over the centuries, literally thousands of Mass settings have been composed, many by the greatest composers of their generations,with exemplars ranging from Mozart to Stravinsky.
Like the novel, the symphony, or the three-act play, the Mass setting is a structural paradigm: a canonical form in Western art music. It is organized around five movementsKyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei. The form has become the de facto medium for composers seeking to add to the ongoing aesthetic and spiritual discussion taking place at the highest levels of musical composition.
At its core, the Missa Charles Darwin is the product of centuries of cultural evolution. It is built on the standard five-movement form, its harmonic and musical vocabulary is informed by ancestral precedent, and its functionlike all musical settings of textis to augment the expressive power of language. But instead of the traditional sacred texts, the Missa Charles Darwin employs the secular writings of Charles Darwin, specifically his On The Origin Of Species.
It has been said that no book since the Bible has been more influential than On The Origin Of Species. Published in 1859, it introduced the concept of evolutionary biology to mainstream audiences. Because its thesis openly challenged the notion that man is the unique creation of God by asserting that humankind emerged not by design, but by natural process, Darwins book was highly controversial. It is still considered by many in the religious establishment to be an affront to Judeo-Christian traditions. Regardless, in the 150 years since its publication, On The Origin Of Species has (to borrow words from the website of Londons Natural History Museum) revolutionized our understanding of nature and our place within it.
The Missa Charles Darwin is a musical composition, not a political statement. It does not seek to reconcile or aggravate the differences between evolutionists and creationists, neither is it intended to defile traditions considered sacred by practicing Christians. Rather, its purpose is to venerate a celebrated work of human ingenuity through the application of an accepted musical form that is uniquely suited to enhance the expressive potential of language. Through music, we seek to celebrate not only Darwins genius, but his inestimable contribution to the human spirit.
For more details and AUDIO SAMPLES, GO HERE.
ABOUT THE ARTISTS
A lot of goodwill has already been generated toward the realization of the Missa Charles Darwin. Donors have contributed significantly to this exciting project. In addition, both New York Polyphony and Gregory Brown are waiving a portion of their standard fees. But to ensure that the premiere of Missa Charles Darwin is a reality, we need your help to reach our goal of $7,500.
Your contribution will enable the artists take the final steps toward completion of this ambitious creative project. With your help, Gregory Brown will have the resources necessary for the final stages of composition. With your help, New York Polyphony can budget the materials, rehearsal time and rehearsal space for the required musical preparation. With your help, the cost of bringing the artists to MBL and successfully mounting the premiere performance will be realized! Falmouth Forum events are always free and open to the public. With your help, Falmouth Forum will present the Missa Charles Darwin on November 18, 2011!
Help us complete the evolution of this project.
Help us reach our funding goal.
Your support helps foster the alliance of science and music!