Logion : seven sayings from the Gospel of Thomas for four male voices
by Elliott Gyger (2001)
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Library shelf no. 783.1485525/GYG 1 [Available for loan]
The Gospel of Thomas is a collection of 114 sayings of Jesus, dating from some time in the first two or three centuries of the Christian era. Each saying ("logion" in Greek) is a self-contained aphorism, parable or piece of dialogue. Many of them are similar or identical to sayings which appear in the canonical Gospels, but others are far removed from anything usually understood as Christian. Part of the fascination these words have for me is this combination of the familiar and the unfamiliar, the impression of something fundamental to our culture given a disturbing and refreshing twist.
My choice and ordering of the seven sayings in this piece is based on recurrent images and themes, of which the most important is the idea of salvation through knowledge, and specifically through understanding the words of Jesus: in other words, they are sayings about sayings. In a similar way, my musical settings are not only reflections on the content of the words, but also explorations of different ways that verbal text and musical texture might interact Several of the settings expand the range of this exploration through use of the original Coptic text. The movements are arranged in symmetrical pairs around the central dialogue, the second movement of each pair constituting a refined and focused version of the musical ideas of the first.
I. Canons (Preface, Logion
These are the secret sayings which the living Jesus spoke and which Didymus Judas Thomas wrote down.
And he said: "Whoever finds the interpretation of these sayings will not taste death."
II. Lines (Logion 19)
Jesus said, "Blessed is the one who was before coming into being.
If you become my disciples and listen to my words, these stones will minister to you.
For there are five trees for you in Paradise, undisturbed summer and winter, whose leaves do not fall.
Whoever comes to know them will not taste death."
III. Blocks (Logion 10)
Jesus said, "I have cast fire upon the world. Behold, I am keeping watch until it blazes."
IV. Scena (Logion 13)
Jesus said to his disciples, "Compare me to someone and tell me whom I am like."
Simon Peter said to him, "You are like a righteous angel."
Matthew said to him, "You are like a wise philosopher."
Thomas said to him, "Master, my mouth will not permit me to say whom you are like."
Jesus said, "I am not your master. Because you have drunk, you have become intoxicated
from the bubbling spring I have measured out."
And he took him and withdrew and told him three sayings.
When Thomas returned to his companions, they asked him, "What did Jesus tell you?"
Thomas said to them, "If I tell you one of the sayings which he told me,
you will take stones and throw them at me; fire will come out of the stones and consume you."
V. Block (Logion 7)
Jesus said, "Blessed is the lion which the man shall devour, and the lion becomes man;
but cursed is the man whom the lion shall devour, and the lion becomes man."
VI. Line (Logion 77)
Jesus said, "I am the light which is above all. I am all.
From me did all come forth, and to me did all extend.
Split a piece of wood, and I am there. Lift up a stone, and you will find me there."
VII. Canon (Logion 2)
Jesus said, "Let him who seeks keep seeking until he finds.
When he finds, he will become troubled.
When he becomes troubled, he will be astonished, and rule over all."
Instrumentation: 4 male voices (countertenor, 2 tenors, baritone).
Duration: 10 min.
Difficulty: Advanced — Professional.
Contents note: I. Canons -- II. Lines -- III. Blocks -- IV. Scena -- V. Block -- VI. Line -- VII. Canon.
Words from the Gospel of Thomas, translations adapted by Elliott Gyger.
- On the occasion of: Spiritual and Sacred Music
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