“The Faces of Persephona”
Two Scenes for Full Orchestra
1. In the Hades: Winter
2. On the Earth: Summer
Commisioned piece by RTS Symphony Orchestra
Conductor: Alessandro Crudele
Ilija Milosavljevic Kolarac Big Hall
The music of the Balkans is well known for the presence of its complex rhythms which always were a huge inspiration for me as a composer. In the following example (ex.68) from the orchestra composition “The faces of Persephone” I used the meter of 7/8 with the aim to musically describe Persephone, the daughter of Zeus and Demeter. Persephone was the queen of the underworld and married to Hades, the god of the underworld. She is associated with spring and the fertility of vegetation.
There were two reasons for choosing the meter 7/8. On one hand, I wanted to create an unexpected mixture of traditions, i.e. to use the metrical elements of the old Serbian folk music tradition to represent the character from the Greek mythology. The 7/8 meter was a good choice to make a contrast between the world (isochrony) and the underworld (non isochrony) where Persephone withdraws after harvest, but also to musically portray the old agrarian cults of agricultural communities, on the other hand.
In Greek mythology, Persephone is the daughter of Zeus and the harvest goddess Demeter, and is the queen of the underworld. Homer describes her as the formidable, venerable majestic princess of the underworld, who carries into effect the curses of men upon the souls of the dead. Persephone was married to Hades, the god-king of the underworld.
The myth of her abduction represents her function as the personification of vegetation, which shoots forth in spring and withdraws into the earth after harvest; hence, she is also associated with spring as well as the fertility of vegetation. Persephone as a vegetation goddess and her mother Demeter were the central figures of the Eleusinian mysteries that predated the Olympian pantheon and promised the initiated a more enjoyable prospect after death. Persephone is further said to have become by Zeus the mother of Dionysus, Iacchus, or Zagreus, usually in orphic tradition.
The origins of her cult are uncertain, but it was based on very old agrarian cults of agricultural communities. Persephone was commonly worshipped along with Demeter and with the same mysteries. To her alone were dedicated the mysteries celebrated at Athens in the month of Anthesterion. In Classical Greek art, Persephone is invariably portrayed robed, often carrying a sheaf of grain. She may appear as a mystical divinity with a sceptre and a little box, but she was mostly represented in the process of being carried off by Hades.