The Awakened heart was conceived as a symphonic triptych. It’s not unlike the medieval triptychs, which would include three panels that were not only independent as paintings, but also formed a narrative or journey. In this case, the central inspiration was a journey into freedom from bondage – the path to inner freedom.
The first movement, “Into the World’s Night,” is very much concerned with awakening. It begins with a slow introduction, in a kind of dreamy stupor, almost a haze. From here we switch into a driving, obsessive movement; there is a juxtaposition of compulsive, maniacal music and what I would call lighthearted music with a certain foreboding. The movement descends into the coda, a movement of reckoning revolving around the key of B minor, a key Beethoven referred to as “the black key”
The second movement, “Epiphany,” is a meditation. A chorale repeats throughout the movement, changing itself ever so slightly as it goes. Interspersed above, below, and through the chorale is a parade of musical thoughts. If there is an epiphany in this movement, it is in the very fact that the chorale is both question and answer. This movement is the heart of the piece and also its turning point, emotionally and dramatically.
The title of the third movement, “My Hero Bares His Nerves,” comes from a poem by Dylan Thomas. This is about what one might do with this resensitization or reawakening. It’s inspired by the idea of learning courage by living fully; it’s about the path of fearlessness. The music here is every fast: it’s a kind of wild ride. And all the materials from the first two movements are brought back in different – and in some sense very visceral – ways. Of the three movements, it is perhaps the most physical.
Although I have all these titles and ideas connected to the music, I have no requirement that listeners receive this in any particular way. In fact, I would prefer that they arrive at their on conclusions!
—adapted from a note by Richard Danielpour