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Rite (1992)

published by Theodore Presser, Inc.

duration 11:12


percussion solo with fixed media and optional dance

Program note

The nature of ritual is as an abstract re-enactment of significant events with a fundamental purpose of catharsis as an ultimate goal. Religious rituals, in particular, share a common theme of transformation through sacrifice. My inspiration for Rite was the concept of a religious ritual in which the transformation of the celebrants became unexpectedly real and complete--that the ritual was no longer abstract, but something which changes the celebrants' completely in unknowable and dramatic ways.  The original version was scored for percussion soloist with both live and computer controlled synthesizers, and was choreographed for three dancers by Mui Cheuk Yin.  I have since made this more practical version for percussion soloist with fixed media and optional dancers.  It has been performed several times since, most notably at the the International Society for Contemporary Music’s World Music Days 2002, where composer Michael Nyman wrote “Christopher Coleman’s Rite evokes the primordial aggression of a pagan ritual provoking and stirring our base emotions with its aural invocation of re-birth through sacrifice.” 

The piece is in four sections. The static, repetitious material of the opening represents the initial call to worship. The ritual itself, with the preparation of the sacrifice, is presented though rapidly moving figures. The third section, in which musical motion almost ceases completely, represents the sacrifice of one of the celebrants. The final orgiastic section portrays the transformation through sacrifice into a new state of being.

Rite was premiered by Yau Ning and Meredith Leung, synthesizers; Leung Hung Wing, percussion; and Christopher Coleman, conductor on​ ​September 16, 1992 at the Hong Kong Academy for the Performing Arts.

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