Axis Mundi is Latin for “center of the world.” More specifically, it connotes the connecting axis between the two opposite sides, or facets, of a world. It appears as a cultural symbol in every region of the planet, often as a natural object, such as the Yggdrasil Tree in Norse mythology, or Mount Fuji in Japan. It signifies the connection of opposites, the intertwined nature of opposing forces and elements: quiet and loud, dark and light, aggressive and passive, masculine and feminine, etc. Of particular interest to me is this concept’s embodiment in the symbol of yin and yang. The two movements represent these opposites in their surface characteristics: whereas Mvt. I, Apatheia, is music of the introverted, interior mind, Mvt. II, Hêdonê, is its extroverted, hedonistic counterpart, yet both are inextricably intertwined, springing from a singular musical source, and require each other for balance.
Apatheia is from the philosophy of Stoicism, and describes a mental state free of emotional volatility and disturbance. My musical setting of this idea evokes a calm, rational mind, without excessive emotion or passion. The music is clear, orderly, and never ventures above piano in volume or character. Hêdonê, on the other hand, is from Epicurean philosophy, and describes the quest for pleasure (more specifically, pleasure with only good consequences, not the wider, wanton disregard that is inherent in the word’s English descendant, hedonism). The music is passionate, hyperactive, chaotic, sometimes angry, and often humorous. It is relentlessly loud and aggressive.
Axis Mundi was commissioned by a consortium of Japanese bands through the Japanese Wind Ensemble Conductors Conference, and organized by Mamoru Nakata. The work was premiered by the 2009 JWECC Festival Band in Okazaki City, Japan, on March 15th, 2009, conducted by Shintaro Fukumoto.
Commissioning Consortium Members:
- Nagoya Wind Symphony(Mamoru NAKATA)
- Wind Ensemble “CANADE”(Kohtai YOH)
- Wind Ensemble Soleil (Taizo OKUYAMA)
- Morioka City Brass (Taizo OKUYAMA)
- Kandamachi-Ichibanchi-Yoriaigakudan Wind Orchestra (Hiroshi SUMI)
- Kawaswaki Unversity of Medical Welfare Heartful Winds (Toshiya IWATA)
- Okayama Sanyo High School Wind Orchestra (Masafumi MATSUMOTO)
- Iyo High School Wind Orchestra (Kimihiko HASEGAWA)
- Fukuokadaiichi High School Wind Orchestra (Takeshi YAMAZAKI)
- Kochi Nishi Senior High School Wind Orchestra (Naoyuki NAKAYAMA)
- Hikarigaoka Girls’ High School Wind Orchestra (Kentaro HINO)
- Nobuya SUGAWA
- Shintaro FUKUMOTO
Commissioned by: JWECC 2009 Consortium (see program note for full list)
14 March 2009, JWECC Conference (Okazaki City, Japan)