• John Tavener
  • Atma Mass (2003)

  • Chester Music Ltd (World)

Commissioned by Liverpool Cathedral for the Centenary of the laying of the Foundation Stone.

  • org
  • 20 min

Programme Note

The music was spontaneously revealed to the composer as a reaction to the transparency and ancient simplicity of the great Latin Rite, and the beauty of the Latin words.
The music tends to relate to the 'esoteric' meaning of the mass. The Kyrie is simple and full of an emptying of self, so that the true Self may be revealed. The Gloria is the song of the angels, theophanic and rapturous. The Credo uses the organ, in awesome block chords. Christ's ascension into heaven is unexpectedly quiet. It was as if Christ was entering into a state that was beyond Being itself, and into a silent 'non-manifest' heaven. The Sanctus is awesome, and hushed, with long silences. The Agnus Dei gives the clue to the title - Atma Mass. Here the Altos contemplate the Sanskrit word 'Atma', relating the whole mass back into the primordial world of Hinduism. Thus, since 'Atma' means Supreme Reality and Supreme Self, the implication is that the Lamb 'eternally slain' from the beginning of the world, who is all Atma, can alone remove us from the tyranny of self, and can alone 'grant us peace' but 'not of this world'. In an age where no single religion can remain exclusive, perhaps the Atma Mass has an interior meaning, for it is surely only by the esoteric language of music, and therefore the esoteric unity of all faiths, that peace can be bestowed on a planet which is 'exoterically' in a shattered state. But the Kingdom of God is within, as Atma is within, as the Mass is within and as music is within. 'God is Beautiful and He loves Beauty'. The Mass is dedicated to this 'inner' Beauty.