The morning after we first considered adapting the story of Adam and Eve in Second Life, I listened to the one-hour long Requeim, back to back, about 4 times. As I did, I saw the scenes unfolding with the music.
The story begins with the opening bars of the Introit, the evocative swaying of the basset horns evoke a calm and serene trudge to the grave. But instead of a slow death march, I see the plodding creation of the world unfolding in a quiet and slow dawn. Then, I hear the low voices of the choir open with the words:
“Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine,
et lux perpetua luceat eis.”
“Grant them eternal rest, Lord,
and let perpetual light shine on them.”
And I see God appearing in the foreground, turning and getting to work.
God gets busier and busier during the uptempo pent-up energy of Kyrie, eleison (“Lord, have mercy on us”), creating the rocks, the trees, Eden and the animals; the piece proudly announcing man’s arrival in its last pause, and then the choir exclaims “Kyrie, eleison!”
Then begins the Sequentia, and in the heat and urgency of Dies Irae there is Adam, running with the animals. Like Farley and the wolves, I see the tigers, the lions, all the monkeys and the elephants, charging alongside him like a stampede of creation. Adam tires, and isn’t satisfied with the company of those with whom he cannot speak. He asks God to create for him a companion in the shape of an equal, and Eve is born from his side. Many believers still assert that it was Eve, not Adam, that condemned the human race to mortality, and the words of Dies irae enunciate prophetically:
“Dies irae, dies illa
Solvet saeclum in favilla,”
“Day of wrath, day of anger
will dissolve the world in ashes.”
Then, comes the trombone obbligiato of Tuba Mirum, and in the voice of the deep bass soloist, I hear what I imagine to be the sombre voice of God. Enter the tenor soloist, a beautifully full sounding voice of a younger man – that of Adam, in God’s image. Soon after, arrives the voice of the alto-soloist, and it is the innocent voice of Eve. Last, I hear the dulcet tones of the soprano soloist, which is the foreshadowed siren of the beguiling devil herself… lurking in the wood, feminised and disguised as the serpent; the great corrupting temptress of the night. And then, gorgeously, the four soloists join together, as if to symbolise the collective act of disobedience that is to come.
The movement closes stolidly and the mood changes dramatically with the choral exaltations of Rex Tremendae. However, instead of seeing a heavenly choir pleading to God for mercy, I see demons in the fiery depths of hell:
“Rex tremendae majestatis,
qui salvandos savas gratis,
salve me, fons pietatis.”
” King of tremendous majesty,
who freely saves those worthy ones,
save me, source of mercy.”
They dance like in a bacchanal, with torches in their hands, spinning around a charred stone throne where sits Satan himself; the fallen one, all beastly and horrible. The voices of the choir – shout “Rex!” They are no longer angels in heaven, but fallen. They drunkenly dance around the beast, pleading with him to save them: lest they are burned up by eternal fire.
The mood shifts dramatically again, and now we are transported to a perfect peace and natural quietness, rolling along undulating fields of grass and lush vegetation. With the sweet sounds of Recordare, I am back in Eden. The voices of Adam and Eve are the tenor and the alto soloists. The bass soloist returns, it is the deep sound of Satan’s voice, breathing deep beneath his disguise, seducing Eve in a dance, tempting her with the forbidden fruit. Despite Adam’s warnings, against her better judgement, she is unable to resist, and takes it…
“Ingemisco, tamquam reus:
culpa rubet vultus emus;”
“I moan as one who is guilty:
owning my shame on my red face;”
The tenor returns; it’s Adam again, seeing Eve utterly beguiled, he joins her as the serpent smoothly slithers back into the wood. Their voices rejoin and they dance. Eve, surprised she is not yet dead, offers the apple to Adam. Adam, knowing she will surely die and leave him alone again, takes it. They fall into a tender embrace.
As the movement ends, God discovers what they’ve done as Confutatis begins. The low condemning voices of God and his angels chant their castigation:
flammis caribous addicts,
voca me cum benedictis…”
“When the accused are confounded,
and doomed to flames of woe,
call me among the blessed.”
But then, we have a very light, very high, string-supported choir: Adam and Eve in the throes of sweet passion, make their homophonic pleas:
“Oro supplex et acclinis,
cor contritum quasi finis,
gere curam mdi finis.”
“I kneel with submissive heart,
my contrition is like ashes,
help me from my final condition.”
Yet, nothing can stop them, not even the harshness of God’s wrath, nor the warnings of the angels, nor the threats of their inevitable doom should they disobey God. The voices join, describing the humble prayer of the sinner, whose heart is crushed, asking for healing.
This is saddest music in the history of the world.: the last two verses of the Sequentia are ushered by two bittersweet violins as the Lacrimosa dies illa begins. Now, Adam and Eve are worried, cowering, sad and depressed, as they are forced to make their journey out of Eden… their paradise is now incalculably lost with the words:
“Lacrimosa dies illa,
qua resurget ex favilla
judicandus homo reus.”
“That day of tears and mourning,
when from the ashes shall arise,
all humanity to be judged.”
And that’s when it hits me. This isn’t the story of a beginning, it is the story of an end. It is the story of Paradise Lost.
Adam and Eve arrive at the gates of Eden as the choir sings inconsolably. The sadness, so overwhelming, of everything they’ve lost fills them to the core of their being. They now face a world of pain, toil and mortality.
Huic ergo parce, Deus,
pie Jesu Domine,
dona eis requiem.
“Spare us by your mercy, Lord,
gentle Lord Jesus,
grant them eternal rest.”
And lastly, with an extended Amen fugue, I see the gates of Eden close before them, never to re-open.