Symphony No. 3 “Journey Without Distance,” for soprano, chamber chorus, and orchestra was written in 1989 on joint commission from the orchestras of Akron, Stamford, and Jacksonville. The text is drawn from “A Course in Miracles,” which is a body of work which deals with the power of transformation through healing relationships. It is a three-volume self-study course which has often been described as a metaphysical, spiritual psychotherapy…in the summer of 1987, I began to read “A Course in Miracles,” which came (into existence) through a process of inner dictation to Helen Schucman, a professor of psychology at Columbia Medical School. In 1988, three orchestras, the Akron, Jacksonville and Stamford symphonies, approached me with the idea of composing a major orchestral work for performance in 1990 with the generous support of the Astral Foundation and the Foundation for Inner Peace. The commission for my “Journey Without Distance” followed.
Although Journey without Distance is in two parts, it is performed in one continuous movement of about 30 minutes length with the soprano’s role interspersed throughout both parts, but most present in the final section. There is also a mixed chorus of about 30 singers used in the work’s Coda. Part One alternates between a rhythmically intense, viscerally oriented music (concerned with evoking feelings of conflict and fear) and a more lyrical style found most often when the soprano is present in the music. It is this split and need for resolution that serves as the dialectic for the music’s journey and dramatic arc. The text in Part One invited us to awaken from the dream of death and out own fearful existence and believe in a world of hope and love.
Part Two begins with an instrumental chorale, which is followed by the voice’s declamation:
The journey to God is merely the reawakening
Of the knowledge of where you are always and what you are forever.
It is a journey without distance
To a goal that has never changed.
What eventually follows are words and music of reconciliation and embrace of the life both within us and around us, this part of the text focuses on the joining of two human beings in a spirit of harmony and compassion, and acknowledges that to have peace we must extend it to one another. The music here is altogether more diatonic, textually less dense, and the tempos more moderate with idiomatic vocal quality that is infused into both the voice and its accompaniment.
The Coda of the work is a long ritualistic prayer which incorporates a chorus (hidden from the audiences view by being implanted in the orchestra). Many of the musical ideas and colors from Part One resurface here, but this time without the rage and obsession that they earlier evoked:
What was a place of death
Has now become a living temple
In a world of light.
The chorus functions as an affirmation of and response to the solo voice’s invitation to peace.
--adapted notes by the composer Richard Danielpour