Alas! Babylon's Final Sunset
for Orchestra

Composer: Lee III, James

  • 94010400

Publication Type

Study Score


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Instrumentation: 2,1 2,1 2,1 2,1; 4331; timp, perc(3), cel, hp; stgs
Duration: 11'
Composed: 2013
Published by: Subito Music Publishing

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Alas! Babylon’s Final Sunset is another installment in my series of works that musically comment on the biblical books of Daniel and Revelation. The principal source of inspiration for this works comes from the 18th chapter of the book of Revelation. This chapter states that the career of “Babylon the Great” is finally coming to an end. The music begins with a mysterious pianissimo tremolo accompanied by tam-tam and bass drum. The initial flourishes in the oboes and English horn serve as the principal “motive of warning.” As the music continues, there are varying degrees of agitation among the strings and woodwinds. Throughout the work there are rhythmic motives in the brass, percussion, and various woodwind instruments that sing and speak “Babylon is Fallen” in triple meter. As the tutti ensemble arrives at a climax, the orchestral texture becomes thinner and slightly transparent. As the music continues, the opening motive returns in the oboes, however the counterpoint produces a series of solo laments. These passages are intended to provide picturesque images of these words:

“And the voice of harpers, and musicians, and of pipers, and trumpeters, shall be heard no more at all in thee; and no craftsman, of whatsoever craft he be, shall be found any more in thee; and the sound of a millstone shall be heard no more at all in thee; And the light of a candle shall shine no more at all in thee. and the voice of the bridegroom and of the bride shall be heard no more at all in thee: for thy merchants were the great men of the earth; for by thy sorceries were all nations deceived. And in her was found the blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth.”
Rev. 18:22-24

The following passages musically comment on the historical career of Babylon with a sense of her impending destruction. The series of laments transforms into the more emphatic rhythmic motive “Babylon is Fallen.” The orchestral texture begins to become more condense, once again, with the initial flourishes of, but with notable variations. Finally, the celesta, harp, oboes, English horn, and strings sing profundities that are finally transformed into a minor mode tonality that fades away with the ringing of the tam-tam. Babylon has finally seen her last sunset.
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