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Joseph Schwantner, "From A Dark Millennium"

October 24, 2017

 From a Dark Millennium

Joseph Schwantner

Born: March 22, 1943, Chicago, Illinois

Composed: 1981

Duration: 11 minutes




Deep forests
a play of Shadows
most ancient murmurings
from a dark millennium
the trembling fragrance
of the music of amber

   - Joseph Schwantner


From a Dark Millennium is the final movement of a trilogy of works for wind ensemble written by Schwantner between 1977 and 1996, which also includes the monumental works …and the mountains rising nowhere (the “first” movement), and In evening’s stillness… (the “second”).


Schwantner does not consider From a Dark Millennium to be programmatic; he does, however, admit that, “the mysterious and shadowy atmosphere... springs from images drawn from a brief original poem that forms the poetic backdrop for the work. The poem helped to stimulate, provoke, and enhance the flow of my musical ideas.”


From a Dark Millennium features a number of Schwantner’s favorite compositional techniques, including “shared monody," “static pillars” of harmony (“blocks of sound”, remaining unchanged for a period of time), changing meters, ostinato (repeating bass figure) and contrasting dynamics/tempi/textural density. As described by the composer, throughout his works, “the piano is responsible for presenting the primary melodic, gestural, harmonic, and sonoric elements that unfold in the music.”



Additional Resources:

- Joseph Schwantner Bio (

- Previous UMWO Schwantner Posts

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