The End Times are a'Changin' (2018) for guitar solo and optional multimedia
The End Times Are a’Changin’ is inspired by the musicianship and intellectual interests of my colleague and dear friend, Colin McAllister. Over the last year or so, Colin has shared with me illustrations and writings by theologian Joachim di Fiore (1135-1202). Fiore’s famous illustrations, collected shortly after his death in the Liber Figurarum, are vivid and arresting in their color and detail. I am compelled by his ability to communicate his thinking about the Trinity, its epochs, and impending apocalypse. In one illustration, Fiore offers three interlocking rings to represent the historical states of the world and their association with the ‘triune god’: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
Fiore represents the Father, creator of nature, with a green ring. The blue ring stands for the Son, heaven-sent. The Holy Spirit’s love is expressed in a red ring, which, for Fiore, was in the future, yet to manifest. These rings were a way for him to understand his moment in relation to the history of the world and its end. So too, the illustration has provoked me to ponder the way in which we perceive ourselves in our moment, in our time. The rings invoke a foreboding curiosity towards the idea of apocalypse, the end of it all. But what do we mean by apocalypse? What apocalypse? Which apocalypse? Fiore’s illustration ironically provides both a seemingly definitive answer, and yet, sublimely (heretically, to some) give none at all. Though, the Joachites were pretty certain that it would happen in 1260.
When developing ideas for this new piece, I was coincidentally revisiting the work of Bob Dylan, following his recent induction to the Nobel Laureate. I was struck by the apocalyptic lyrics of his song, “The Times They Are a’Changing”. They are hauntingly prescient now – in this era of rising sea levels, world-warming, world-warring, and ‘strong man’ politics that care not for the human race – as they were over fifty years ago. The times are indeed a’changin’, with myriad apocalypses.
With this in mind, I have composed a theme and variations on the melody of Dylan’s song. The movements can be performed in any order and are accompanied by media composed and broadcast in real time through your mobile devices. The form of the work can thus manifest and conclude in different ways. To learn about these different ways of performing the piece, click here for the performance notes.