Described as “Gregorian chant meets indie rock combined with the lush choral sounds of Arvo Pärt and Carl Orff,” Requiem presents an original sound world that bridges the old and the new. Brian Coughlin’s first large-scale composition for Fireworks, Requiem was first conceived as a joint project between Fireworks and the NYC-based composer-singer collective C4. Since its premiere in 2012, Fireworks has been involved in a long-term collaboration with the Hartford-based choirs of Chorus Angelicus and Gaudeamus to shape and expand the piece. A recording of the work is in post-production with with plans for release in 2016.
Brian describes the inspiration for the project:
“The idea for the Requiem came from an experience I had walking in the New England woods. It was at the time of year when fall was giving way to winter, and the cold stillness of the forest struck a very strong emotional chord for me. The ‘dying’ of forest served as a reminder of how startlingly transitory life is and how reassuringly connected everything is in nature’s cycles of death and renewal, and became a metaphor for a sense of loss in my own life: the loss of childhood innocence, the loss of friends and family, the loss of connection to the natural world. Being there among the trees allowed me to participate in a profound process. It seemed to me that the seasons— all of the transitions that those woods had seen year after year— created a kind of endless, solemn ritual. There was something about the experience that was incredibly beautiful and very powerful, and I felt strongly compelled to try to capture that feeling in music.
The transition of autumn to winter is also the time of year that I always seem to listen to a lot of ‘early’ music such as Medieval chant and Renaissance polyphony, and I felt that setting an ancient text would provide the connection to the past that I was looking for. The Requiem (the Latin mass for the dead), seemed to be a perfect vehicle for the piece, given its long tradition of being set to music by great composers throughout the music history.
Though the Requiem text has incredibly powerful and passionate writing, it failed to capture the whole picture of my inspiration. In order to make the piece more personal and topical, I decided to substitute some of the sections of the text with new poetry, but using themes from the original Requiem mass as a framework for the poems. (The Recordare [‘Remember’], for example, deals with impermanence and memory, while the Offertorio [‘Offering’] works with images of sacrifice). The idea of combining old and new texts provided an ideal way to bridge the musical worlds of the chorus and Fireworks as well: I could set the Latin texts in a traditional, “Classical’ manner and the original texts in a more modern, rock-oriented style.”