Pilgrimage and postminimalism in Joby Talbot’s Path of miracles
Meade, Joy Elizabeth
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Joby Talbot’s Path of Miracles is a seventy-minute a cappella choral masterwork that portrays the experience of a pilgrim traveling the Camino de Santiago. Composed in 2005 on commission from Nigel Short for his professional choir Tenebrae, Path of Miracles is a modern-day soundtrack of this enduring pilgrimage. This paper examines Path of Miracles from three perspectives: as a representation of pilgrimage, as a reflection of the sacred and secular aspects of the Camino de Santiago, and as an example of a postminimalism in a choral work. Chapter 2 studies Path of Miracles as a musical depiction of common pilgrimage experiences as explained by anthropologists. Modern pilgrimage scholarship examines a person’s motivation to take a pilgrimage, his or her separation from daily life and social status, the re-shaping of a pilgrim’s identity along the journey, the physical effect of constant walking on the mind and body, and the re-entrance of the pilgrim into society. Path of Miracles represents these stages of pilgrimage musically. Additionally, Chapter 2 demonstrates how Path of Miracles is a modern-day, musical depiction of the French route, and this chapter will explore how the piece serves as a musical guidebook, depicting the landscape, cathedrals, cultures, people and sounds found on the Camino Frances. Chapter 3 examines the sacred and secular musical elements found in Path of Miracles, and how these elements portray the dichotomy of religious and non-religious aspects of the Camino’s history. Path of Miracles encapsulates this intersection primarily through reference to sacred and secular musical forms and texts. Chapter 4 provides a musical analysis of Path of Miracles for conductors and performers to reference, organized movement-by-movement. Each movement is introduced by a graph that represents its musical elements and structure. The graphs also highlight Talbot’s use of postminimalist compositional devices, such as repetition, reference and quotation, rhythmic and textual layering, tiered dynamics, and phase shifting. Because this piece does not fit neatly into a common choral genre like the oratorio or cantata, defining and tracing the theoretical approach and musical influences on the piece is a concrete way to help conductors, performers, and audience members understand the complexities and style choices within its eighteen-voice texture.