And We Are Insubstantial

And We Are Insubstantial is a Mass for chamber choir, percussion, piano and viola. The inspiration behind the piece comes from my own experiences of participation in Western Christian liturgy, principally those within St. Andrew’s Anglican Church in Moscow, Russia. During one service, the timbres of the words were especially apparent apart from any linguistic context, and the most basic nonmusical sounds became intensely musical and meaningful. This inspired me to write a work of music based on the performative act of receiving the Eucharist as understood in its theological and historical context. Although the music is a highly internalized and subjective representation of the liturgy, the Latin text persists throughout it, seeking to ground the rest of the music in a greater significance, the Eucharist itself. The participation in this feast is ultimately life-giving and life-affirming – a joyous act – and thus the work ends with both peace and joy as the individual, having consumed the elements, leaves with a sense of completion and profound satisfaction.

The title was inspired by a few lines from “Marina” by T.S. Eliot:

“Those who sharpen the tooth of the dog, meaning
Death
Those who glitter with the glory of the hummingbird, meaning
Death
Those who sit in the sty of contentment, meaning
Death
Those who suffer the ecstasy of the animals, meaning
Death

Are become insubstantial, reduced by a wind,
A breath of pine, and the woodsong fog
By this grace dissolved in place”

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