Under the Sun

There is perhaps no part of the Bible which is more pessimistic and less “religious” than Ecclesiastes, a chapter whose very inclusion in the Bible was hotly debated. Yet its pessimism rings true, and its lyrical strains about the endless rounds of existence can be as comforting as they are bitter. The assertion that “there is nothing new under the sun” is also comfortingly ironic for a 21st-century composer who was schooled as a proper 20th- century avant-gardist.

This setting explores some of the text’s dimensions within the large acoustic space formed by so many voices. Harmonies are generally consonant and rooted (in part for clarity amidst many closely-woven parts), though often coloured by simultaneous major and minor thirds (“false relations” favoured by English composers of the Renaissance). The text comes from Chapter 1 of Eccesiastes, edited from several different translations.

Text: Under the Sun

One generation passes away And another generation comes But the earth remains forever.

The sun also rises
And the sun goes down
And hurries back to where it rose.

The wind blows to the south And turns around to the north Round and round it goes
And returns again to its course. All the rivers run into the sea Yet the sea is not full.

All things are weary with toil
And all words are feeble.
The eye is never satisfied with seeing Nor the ear filled with hearing.

That which has been
Is that which shall be
And that which was done Is that which shall be done

And there is nothing new under the sun.