This unusual recording documents a tri-part program of 20th-century music, organized and composed by Robert Bates. It includes many world premier recordings. With interspersed spoken texts and imaginative programming, Bates explores the nature of the world and ourselves, through verbal themes and non-verbal sound paintings. This is the most unusual organ recording in the Loft collection, and it is a masterpiece of invention, symbolism and imagination.
Program Notes:A Short Guide to Viaticum
Viaticum takes us on three journeys: of the mind, of the body, and of the soul. During each journey, we seek an answer to the same question, “What is the nature of the universe?” Three answers are given: one by the voice of philosophy, another by the voice of science, and the last by the voice of religion.
After a prelude to the first journey, the voice of philosophy responds to the question by guiding us through the teachings of the ancient Greek thinkers: 1) Phythagoras taught that the universe consists of numbers and ratios. 2) Heraclitus taught that all is measure and opposites are one. 3) The philosophers of Miletus taught that everything consists of a single substance, such as fire. 4) Democritus taught that the universe consists of tiny, indivisible atoms, surrounded by empty space. 5) Plato taught that the universe consists of Ideas or Forms. 6) Plotinus taught that beyond the universe of matter, there is also a trinity of Ideas, which we can experience by taking a “journey of the mind.” After we ascend through this trinity, however, we arrive at an Absolute, which can not be understood.
After a prelude to the second journey, the voice of science takes up the same question as it leads us through the evolution of the universe, stopping at various important points along the way: 1) When the universe first began to cool after the big bang. 2) When the galaxies and stars first formed and elements were propelled into space. 3) When the Earth formed and life came into being. 4) When life evolved in the seas. 5) When life moved onto the land and into the air. 6) And finally when the human species appeared on the Earth. Science then asks us to consider our future in space and the end of time itself. At this point, however, we again arrive at an Absolute that exceeds all human description. But science believes we shall someday understand this frontier, for everything ultimately is knowable because of an underlying “harmony of the universe.”
After a prelude to the third journey, the voice of religion offers its own response to the question as it leads us on a journey of the soul: 1) We begin with a funeral procession and descent to the world below. 2) We continue by following the soul as it crosses over the River Styx. 3)
Next we pass into Hades’ realm where the soul comes into the presence of terrifying beings. 4) We then accompany the soul as it experiences its final judgment. 5) We follow as it ascends through the layers of the cosmos. 6) Finally, we join the soul as it encounters the Absolute, which again surpasses all human understanding. Viaticum concludes when our three journeys intersect at a common ground, which the Romans called a “Trivium.”
"Here is a remarkable concert of organ music of the 20th century, in which not a single work suffers from the faults that generally weigh on contemporary music… This selection lets us hear the best of what is being written for organ in recent years. And I include the pieces by Bates himself, whether for solo organ or organ accompanied by synthesizer or pre-recorded organ; it is music that can be listened to again and again with real pleasure verging on the spellbinding.
Bates as a player also deserves plenty of compliments: he plays clearly, precisely, and not without emotion…”
"This unusual recording is a sonic spectacular, and presents the organ as it is rarely heard, with an unusual repertoire. Many pieces are recorded here for the first time...
"Bates is obviously a highly accomplished performer, as one would expect from an organist in such demand. The clarity of his articulation is immaculate, and his choice of the two fine organs at the Stanford Memorial Church was inspired, as both record beautifully."
David Denton - Fanfare Magazine