Husa's "Apotheosis Of This Earth"

Leslie Decker '13

When we first began to read through the choral music of Apotheosis of This Earth by Karel Husa, no one in the chorus or Glee Club had any idea what the seemingly random jumbles of dissonance, unique harmonies and vocal percussion would produce in the month to come. Originally, the piece was a strange exercise in trust for the groups. Mainly, trust that our beloved director Scott Tucker was not actually just forcing us to scream in the basement rehearsal room of Lincoln for his own amusement. We took the modern aspects of Apotheosis with a blind faith uniquely characteristic of student musicians.

As we became more comfortable with the piece’s rhythmically challenging runs and incredibly high range, Tucker would yell aspects of the instrumental score that were occurring as we shouted “whyyyyyyyyyy, whyyyyyyyyy”, or sang the highest note we could produce, but it was very difficult to remember what words mean when they are not your own and no real context exists to support them. From time to time, we would discuss what Apotheosis meant; what it would mean to continue on the dangerous trajectory mankind has crafted for itself in its obsession with consumption and violence, and then slowly we began to understand the extraordinary relevance and disturbing truth behind Husa’s logic. We were trying to wake people up; to shake them from comfortable avoidance of the issues festering in our world. But it was only until the night of dress rehearsal that the stunning impact of this piece was truly felt by the groups.

I remember holding my breath in the quiet beginnings of the first movement as the clarinet and flute altered their pitches in an attempt to fabricate the humming generated by machines, in my mind I saw it: the small frosted blueberry of our planet. More and more instruments joined into the eerie savoring of pitch and the frame was set. We were staring at the remains of our planet in our minds eye, and as we began to sing our first pitches, the hairs began to rise on my arm. I had never really harbored much appreciation for the piece. Screaming and clapping weren’t really why I’d auditioned for the group 2 years ago, but in that moment I understood and I felt the sense of urgency and fear that Husa had worked so artfully to create.

You are not meant to enjoy Apotheosis of This Earth; you are supposed to hear it. As Tucker mentioned in his introduction speech to the audience on opening night before the we began, “it is supposed to make you uncomfortable,” and that is exactly what it did. I won’t say that I’m used to people crying when I sing, but the occasional tear at the pinnacle of beauty and musicality is not foreign to any musician. Yet, the display of emotion presented by the audience during our performance was one I have never quite encountered. People were crying, but it was a disparaging and upsetting kind, where the looks of intense unease on the faces of full-grown men completely rattled what remained of my naïve faith that “the adults would take care of it.” Suddenly I realized that the problems of this world were my own. That as the title suggests it is “this beautiful Earth” we are consciously destroying and the fate of our children and children’s children we are working to eradicate. I won’t say I liked the piece because no one really enjoys being made to listen to and realize the mistakes and ensuing problems they have made, but I appreciate how I felt singing it and I hope with every part of myself that our voices awoke in our listeners the need to actively participate and take responsibility for our planet.