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Music Text

Matthew Jocelyn, Charles Darwin, Gottfried van Swieten, Genesis (E-G)


S,CT; double SATB chorus ;
3(II,III=picc,II=afl).3(III=corA).3(II=bcl,III=dbcl).3(II,III=dbn)- org)-strings(,min.; amplification

Abbreviations (PDF)



This work is available from Boosey & Hawkes for the world.


World Premiere
Symphony Hall, Birmingham
Jennifer France, soprano / Patrick Terry, counter tenor / City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra & Chorus / Hallé Choir / Nicholas Collon
Composer's Notes

In This Brief Moment – an evolution cantata, is a work for orchestra and mixed chorus. It is inscribed in a long history of cantatas hovering between the sacred and the profane, engaging with questions of being and becoming, origins and destinations.

The Origins of Species by Charles Darwin served as our starting point, and remains at the core of In This Brief Moment, an alternative perspective to the biblical concept of creation as celebrated in Haydn’s Die Schöpfung, for example, also referenced in this work. But Bernie Krause’s The Great Animal Orchestra also helped us to shape an evolutionary sound chart, from “geophony” to “biophony” to “androphony”, a categorization we loosely adopted as our own three-part structure.

In three movements and a duration of 45 minutes, with the expressive resources of a symphonic orchestra, two choruses and two soloists (a lyric soprano and a counter-tenor) In This Brief Moment boldly glides through 4.5 billion years of history, from the formation of planet Earth, through the emergence of the first mono-cellular beings, the intermittent pullulation of life and life-forms, the sporadic periods of extinction that have criss-crossed the past 4 billion years, to the emergence of Homo Sapiens and this brief moment in the history of the world when human life seems to have developed agency over its own future and perhaps even over that of the planet itself.

In exploring this almost imponderable span of time and life-forms, we are also given to explore sound as it has evolved, from the vast soundworld of natural elements (“Geophony” as Bernie Krause has called this phonic presence devoid of biological elements), through the emergence and seemingly endless expansion of sounds emitted by the biological world (“Biophony”), to the relatively recent addition of human generated sounds, be they mechanical, musical, technological, or accidental (“Androphony”), and their progressive take-over of the world we live in.

In This Brief Moment is not a history lesson, nor is it a manifesto, though it is perhaps both a love-song and a lament. It is our opportunity to marvel at what has been, what that has become, and what might well be lost. It is a symphonic and choral poem which reminds us that :

What is is,
But once was not
Nor once no more shall be.
(text from In This Brief Moment)

Brett Dean and Matthew Jocelyn , November 2019

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