Karel Husa (August 7, 1921 – December 14, 2016) was a Czech-born classical composer and conductor, winner of the 1969 Pulitzer Prize for Music and the Grawemeyer Prize for Music Composition from the University of Louisville in 1993. In 1954, he emigrated to the United States and became a US citizen in 1959. Read on here.
1. Apotheosis of this Earth
According to Wikipedia, “apotheosis” means:
Apotheosis (Greek: ἀποθέωσις, from ἀποθεόω/ἀποθεῶ, ”to deify”; also called divinization and deification from Latin: deificatio, lit. ”making divine”) is the glorification of a subject to divine level and most commonly, the treatment of a human like a god. The term has meanings in theology, where it refers to a belief, and in art, where it refers to a genre. In theology, apotheosis refers to the idea that an individual has been raised to godlike stature. In art, the term refers to the treatment of any subject (a figure, group, locale, motif, convention or melody) in a particularly grand or exalted manner.
In the context of “Apotheosis of this Earth”, “Apotheosis” then apparently means deifying planet Earth. Husa’s choice of words is correct: man has declared himself the supreme creature through biblical texts – man is created in God’s image and likeness – while man has brought all life, including man himself, and the earth, to the brink of the abyss. A change can only be created if man knocks himself off his own throne, and starts to accept and respect all creatures, including planet earth and its atmosphere, as divine, equal to each other. Only then there might be a future.
“Apotheosis of this Earth” is a musical work that was performed in 1985 by Koninklijke Harmonie Oefening en Uitspanning from Beek en Donk, the Netherlands, during the World Music Contest – concert category – in Kerkrade, the Netherlands. Conductor Heinz Friesen had chosen for this work, which was composed for symphonic wind orchestras. A bold choice, for both the listening audience and the musicians in the orchestra itself. This will be made clear in the following article. The article is in line with what I experienced myself at that time: while listening to this piece, during rehearsal evenings — I would join the orchestra after the WMC—, I became emotionally ill, and had to leave the concert hall. Time after time. This was noticed by everyone, but not understood by anyone. I couldn’t explain why this happened to me. I reacted very strongly to the sounds, the composition. That did not only happen to me: Leslie Becker, member of the Cornell University student choir, describes his experiences and impressions. Note: no choir was present during the rehearsals and the performances by the Koninklijke Harmonie Oefening en Uitspanning from Beek en Donk. During the last movement, words and phrase fragments are spoken by one or more musicians, as part of the performance. Including: “Beau-ti-ful…. Earth. ”
2. The Original Composition
Karel Husa composed this work for orchestra and choir. A masterly choice. The sounds of the choir, the human voices, are an indispensable part of the composition. This was only discovered late (2023): in an audio recording of Apotheosis of this Earth published on YouTube, a choir is also present. It enriches the emotional experience, it breaks the isolation of the voiceless listener as a human being alone in the midst of the inharmonious and so much discomfort and disgusting sounds of musical instruments alone, as happens in the performance of concert bands, which have no choir at their disposal.
Karel Husa, Apotheosis of this Earth, for chorus and orchestra, performed in 1971 by the University of Louisville Choir and the University of Louisville Orchestra. Conductor: Karel Husa
- Tragedy of Destruction
3. Leslie Decker, Cornell University Chorus: Husa’s “Apotheosis Of This Earth” –
“You are not meant to enjoy Apotheosis of This Earth; you are supposed to hear it.”
When we first began to read through the choral music of Apotheosis of This Earth by Karel Husa, no one in the chorus or Glee Club had any idea what the seemingly random jumbles of dissonance, unique harmonies and vocal percussion would produce in the month to come. Originally, the piece was a strange exercise in trust for the groups. Mainly, trust that our beloved director Scott Tucker was not actually just forcing us to scream in the basement rehearsal room of Lincoln for his own amusement. We took the modern aspects of Apotheosis with a blind faith uniquely characteristic of student musicians.
As we became more comfortable with the piece’s rhythmically challenging runs and incredibly high range, Tucker would yell aspects of the instrumental score that were occurring as we shouted “whyyyyyyyyyy, whyyyyyyyyy”, or sang the highest note we could produce, but it was very difficult to remember what words mean when they are not your own and no real context exists to support them. From time to time, we would discuss what Apotheosis meant; what it would mean to continue on the dangerous trajectory mankind has crafted for itself in its obsession with consumption and violence, and then slowly we began to understand the extraordinary relevance and disturbing truth behind Husa’s logic. We were trying to wake people up; to shake them from comfortable avoidance of the issues festering in our world. But it was only until the night of dress rehearsal that the stunning impact of this piece was truly felt by the groups.
I remember holding my breath in the quiet beginnings of the first movement as the clarinet and flute altered their pitches in an attempt to fabricate the humming generated by machines, in my mind I saw it: the small frosted blueberry of our planet. More and more instruments joined into the eerie savoring of pitch and the frame was set. We were staring at the remains of our planet in our minds eye, and as we began to sing our first pitches, the hairs began to rise on my arm. I had never really harbored much appreciation for the piece. Screaming and clapping weren’t really why I’d auditioned for the group 2 years ago, but in that moment I understood and I felt the sense of urgency and fear that Husa had worked so artfully to create.
You are not meant to enjoy Apotheosis of This Earth; you are supposed to hear it. As Tucker mentioned in his introduction speech to the audience on opening night before the we began, “it is supposed to make you uncomfortable,” and that is exactly what it did. I won’t say that I’m used to people crying when I sing, but the occasional tear at the pinnacle of beauty and musicality is not foreign to any musician. Yet, the display of emotion presented by the audience during our performance was one I have never quite encountered. People were crying, but it was a disparaging and upsetting kind, where the looks of intense unease on the faces of full-grown men completely rattled what remained of my naïve faith that “the adults would take care of it.” Suddenly I realized that the problems of this world were my own. That as the title suggests it is “this beautiful Earth” we are consciously destroying and the fate of our children and children’s children we are working to eradicate. I won’t say I liked the piece because no one really enjoys being made to listen to and realize the mistakes and ensuing problems they have made, but I appreciate how I felt singing it and I hope with every part of myself that our voices awoke in our listeners the need to actively participate and take responsibility for our planet.
4. Karel Husa about “Apotheosis of this Earth”
UMWO, University of Maryland Wind Orchestra / 1 oktober 2015
Author: Anthony Rivera
In the late 1960’s, Husa became increasingly concerned about the deterioration of the earth’s environment. He recalls impressions from the summer of 1970:
“I saw an incredible number of dead fish floating on Lake Cayuga near [my summer] cottage. The new power plant was producing hot water that caused thermal pollution, which in turn killed all those fish. In addition, I noticed more beer cans in the water and algae in greater quantities. I thought, ‘we are wasting this planet.’ It was then that I got my first idea for Apotheosis.”
In reflecting on the first sketches of the new work, he recalled the pictures of baby seals being killed for their furs, and the desperation created by the nuclear arms race. One of his former students at Cornell, Dr. Roger Payne, was actively involved in the scientific study of whales and invited Husa to listen to recorded sounds of whales. He was so moved by the recordings and the fact that whales were still being hunted without restrictions that he decided to imitate those sounds in his new score. In addition, the view of earth from the moon, as seen for the first time on television in 1969, influenced the point of departure for Apotheosis of this Earth.
Husa wrote the following note for the premiere performance (given by the University of Michigan Band in 1971):
The composition of Apotheosis of this Earth was motivated by the present desperate stage of mankind and its immense problems with everyday killings, war, hunger, extermination of fauna, huge forest fires, and critical contamination of the whole environment.
Man’s brutal possession and misuse of nature’s beauty—if continued at today’s reckless speed—can only lead to catastrophe. The composer hopes that the destruction of this beautiful earth can be stopped, so that the tragedy of destruction—musically portrayed in the second movement—and the desolation of the aftermath (the “postscript” of the third movement) can exist only as fantasy, never to become reality.
In the first movement, Apotheosis, the earth first appears as a point of light in the universe. Our memory and imagination approach it in perhaps the same way as it appeared to the astronauts returning from the moon. The earth grows larger and larger, and we can even remember some of its tragic moments (as struck by the xylophone near the end of the movement).
The second movement, Tragedy of Destruction, deals with the actual brutalities of man against nature, leading to the destruction of our planet, perhaps by radioactive explosion. The earth dies as a savagely, mortally wounded creature.
The last movement is a Postscript, full of the realization that so little is left to be said: the earth has been pulverized into the universe, the voices scattered into space. Toward the end, these voices — at first computer-like and mechanical — unite into the words “this beautiful earth,” simply said, warm and filled with regret…and one of so many questions comes to our minds: ‘Why have we let this happen?’”
When Husa was asked to identify his best work, he responded that it would be like choosing a favorite child. When he was urged to choose, he named Apotheosis of this Earth. The work remains chillingly relevant today.
5. “Apotheosis of this Earth”, by symphonic wind orchestra “Koninklijke Harmonie Oefening en Uitspanning”, Beek en Donk, the Netherlands, 1985, WMC Kerkrade, the Netherlands:
Attention: all sounds, also the dissonant sounds, the sounds that sound false, as mistakes by the musicians, are meant to sound like that. It is exactly what Karel Husa composed.
6. “Apotheosis of this Earth” today
Can I listen to it now? Yes! I am amazed that I now have no problems hearing the music, which totally knocked me off the field at the time, 35 years ago. My explanation for this is the fact that during the years before “Apotheosis of this Earth” I crossed my path through various personal crisis periods. This also included what I myself consciously saw happening around me, for example, what came to me through the news from distant countries that were affecting me, deeply, but also the role of me as a woman, then, in a changing society, the role of myself in the family, and marriage, suffering from a neglected burnout. The existence of the word burnout was not even known in that time. My psychological and physical health was in a deep crisis. Especially because I consciously saw what others did not see, I stood alone among many with closed eyes. Music was — and is — a source of emotional nutrition. However, listening to Husa even intensified my own crisis. Also after 1985, it did not get much better: I went through a lot of what I kept hidden from the outside world, because people, even so-called friends and family, but even my own husband showed time and again that they could not understand me. After the passing away of my husband, who died because of heart-failure and pulmonary embolism, on December 20, 1989, a rapid acceleration started in life processes, associated psychological processes, therapies and courses, which ultimately brought me more and more in my strength. It costs much effort, but it is possible to learn to look at the facts, to become deeply aware of the reality, and to find what really heals, to do something, to become active, an activist, even while standing totally alone. Do not quit ever. The good thing about the time we live in now is that many more people are now awake, trying to save what can be saved. To save not only one’s own future, but especially the future of children and grandchildren, all humans, animals, plants, oceans, the earth and its atmosphere, our home, from total destruction. My activism is mainly expressed through and in this blog Multerland. The music that connected with my inner strength is the music of Mikis Theodorakis. His political activism is expressed in numerous compositions. He is a unique human. I write about that in “Music and why it moves us“.
7. “Apotheosis of this Earth” – classical music in the category “Activism in Music”
In the former paragraph I mention the Greek Mikis Theodorakis(1925). His music, and especially his anti-violent-regime songs, belong to the category “Music and Politics”, to “Activism in Music”. Protesting, activism, are related with politics, with injustice in the society and life on earth in general, created by politicians, regimes. Anti-war songs are not a classical music genre, but all Theodorakis’s music is more or less part of his activism against the Greek government, against suppressors, also his classical music compositions, of the time he was in Greek concentration camps and utterly cruel tortured: he was even buried alive twice.
Karel Husa has created a classical music activism-composition in a time that people hardly knew about environment and climate change: 1970. He was far ahead of his time. Other classical music composers who created classical music in this genre are Ludwig von Beethoven (Germany), Giuseppe Verdi (Italy), Dmitri Shostakovich (Russia), Aram Khachaturian (Russia), Sergei Prokofiev (Russia). See: wikipedia
8. “Apotheosis of this Earth” and the wireless industry, 5G
Telecom, the wireless industry, is not present in the composition: in 1970, the year the work has been composed, the public did not know about any kind of wireless radiation, and tests, researches. The wireless industry however has created and is creating so much damage to the Earth, a n d her atmosphere, ionosphere, because of the rollout of 5G and the 5G satellites, that even this part of the human attack on nature, Earth, is for me audible in the composition. The music is an art expression of the enormous threat the wireless industry created and is still creating for the future of all life on earth. The music expresses exactly where I cannot find the exact words for. My words failed to reach the most essential influencers in the world: politicians, governments, WHO, EU, till today. May this post create a higher awareness, a deeper awareness about the threat we are all living in, in politicians, industrials, humans. May all become activists, by the Apotheosis of this Earth.
9. “Apotheosis of this Earth” – Distribution of Space Debris in Orbit around Earth
Attention: not any 5G satellite was orbited yet, this means: in the ionosphere, which is extremely close to earth. In the meantime Elon Musk started and continues orbiting. There is no limit. No law protects the skies against space junk, space debris, or ultimate total of satellites. United Mations is in a deep sleep. The planned total of 5G satellites till now: plus hundred thousand. Read more: Satellites
This animation shows different types of space debris objects and different debris sizes in orbit around Earth. For debris objects bigger than 10 cm the data come from the US Space Surveillance Catalogue. The information about debris objects smaller than 10 cm is based on a statistical model by ESA.
Number of space debris objects in orbit:
> larger than 1 m: 5 400 objects
> larger than 10 cm: 34 000 objects (among them are only 2 000 active satellites)
> larger than 1 cm: 900 000 objects
> larger than 1 mm: 130 000 000 objects
Red: satellites (functional or dysfunctional)
Yellow: rocket bodies
Green: mission related objects (covers, caps, adapters, etc.)
- Composer and conductor Karel Husa dies at 95
Gepubliceerd: December 16, 2016
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