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Ekstasis, op. 43 : for six solo voices

by Andrew Schultz (1990)

Audio Sample

Performance by The Song Company from the CD Southern Cantata, Sea Change, and Ekstasis

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laughter of mermaids


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The laughter of mermaids / The Song Company.

Library shelf no. CD 225 [Available for loan]

Ekstasis, opus 43


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Ekstasis, opus 43 : for six solo voices / Andrew Schultz.

Library shelf no. 783.165525/SCH 1 [Available for loan]

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Work Overview

Ekstasis was composed in August 1990 for the Song Company and is a setting for six solo voices of a passage freely adapted by the composer from the conclusion of The Song of Songs. The eight lines used are erotic love poetry exploring the sensual territory at the border of love and pain, obsessive lust and spiritual transcendence:

Set me like a seal on your heart,
Like a seal on your arm.
For love is strong as death,
Jealousy relentless as pain.
The flash of it is a flash of fire,
a flame of life itsel
Love no flood can drench
no torrents drown

Yet whilst the text is direct and passionate it also has a classical and simple shape, as if the strength of meaning demands a balancing formality of expression.

In Ekstasis, the text is used over and over as if all aspects of its meaning are being explored and implying an overtly erotic dramatic shape for the music's form. In the course of the work, the words are varied slightly but continuously so that the first lines lose their purity and become almost desperate:

Set me like a scar on your soul,
Like a brand on your body.
For love is strong as death,
Time certain as pain.

The music of the piece stems from a few simple sources: a single chord that forms up slowly over a protracted period, sighing glissandi, rapturous moans and calling melodies and a duet refrain that is continuously varied. The work contrasts different possibilities of texture beginning with a solo, then a duet and so on till all six voices are heard. Finally, it closes with a still section - a state of dis-placement or trance, the literal meanings of the Greek word ekstasis.

Work Details

Year: 1990

Instrumentation: 2 sopranos, alto, tenor, baritone, bass.

Duration: 10 min.

Difficulty: Advanced

Dedication note: To Nicole

Commission note: Commissioned by Roland Peelman, The Song Company.

First performance: by The Song Company — 2 Nov 90. Kincoppal School, Rose Bay, Sydney

Erotic text drawn from the Song of Songs, adapted freely by the composer from the Jerusalerm Bible original.

Performances of this work

19 Dec 90: Bruce Gordon Theatre IPAC, Wollongong, NSW. Featuring The Song Company.

2 Nov 90: Kincoppal School, Rose Bay, Sydney. Featuring The Song Company.

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