This work has grown out of my lifelong admiration, almost worship, for trees. For as long as I can remember, I have been entranced and comforted by the extraordinary individual beauty of each tree; by its myriad of shapes and colours. I have watched the dance like rocking of branches in the wind while listening to the song like groaning and sighing; the leaves rustling and whispering, full of mysterious secrets. Beauty, harmony, strength and order, the tree conveys to me; but it communicates to me something much more than its sheer physical presence. Beyond the aesthetic pleasure and sensual delights of appearance, touch or smell, the tree seems to me to emanate some mysterious power through its moods, and through its soul.
Keeping in mind the soul-projections of the trees - their emanations - in this work I was trying to express the wonder and intensity of my contemplative experience. The tree-like structure of this composition unfolds organically. The ‘root’ is a basic 3-note cell, C-D-Eflat. The pattern of growth of the trunk, i.e. the vertical sound throughout Arbor Cosmica, is brought about by the constant repetition and transposition of this 3-note cell, creating a rising or descending chain of transposed triads with their two reflections.
The horizontal sound, the 12 Emanations [12 short movements] represents in an abstract way the 12 branches of this cosmic tree with their variety of leaves. Each of the 12 Emanations has its own tonal melodic line composed in a different key - always as a kind of counterpoint to the progression of the triads. These melodic lines are based on a major scale (always with an augmented fourth and diminished seventh), and are arranged in a circle of fifths – each Emanation ending with a simultaneously major and minor chord.
These melodic lines intertwine with the triads throughout the work. In Emanation 1, for example, the melodic line starts from the high register and ends in the lower one (from 'foliage' down to 'roots'), at the same time interwoven into the triads which are progressing upwards from low to high register. In Emanation II these elements take the contrary direction, and they alternate throughout the work. Thus the odd numbered Emanations progress the opposite way to the even numbered ones, and the tempi alternate too.
Allowing myself some poetic licence, these contrary motions of vertical progression and horizontal line reflect the symbol of the Arbor Cosmica (Cosmic Tree), which often appears in art and literature upside-down with its roots in heaven and its foliage running into the earth.
Note: this work was performed by Gerard Schwarz and the New York Chamber Symphony with triple strings for each part.
For the diagram illustrating the construction of this work, see the programme note section on www.panufnik.com