Heaven and Earth are not kind

by Leon Harrell

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* * * Best enjoyed with headphones, or really good speakers * * *

The inspiration for this piece came from Verse 5 of the Tao Te Ching, which states:

Heaven and Earth are not kind. They regard all things as offerings. The sapient is not kind. He regards the people as offerings.

Is not the space between Heaven and Earth like a bellows? It is empty, but lacks nothing. The more it moves, the more comes out of it.

A multitude of words is tiresome, unlike remaining centered.

from Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu , Translated by Stefan Stenudd (original source)

The three separate and disparate parts of this verse are the source for the piece's formal structure. Additionally the imagery set by the text is reflected sonically, though not literally programmatic.

This verse describes the unbiased and unemotional actions of the universe and its inner workings. This powerful image calls for an overwhelming aural assault that reflects the way in which nature can wreck havoc locally in order to maintain balance as a whole.

In the second part the concept of Ma is invoked, which acknowledges the empty space between objects as always being full and representing the deeper relationship between the objects. Sonically the piece is full with gestures that exploit the depth of field (proximity) for the listener while simultaneously creating relationships between the individual sonic events.

In the final passage the mental state of being centered is conveyed with ambient textures and a recall of the opening chimes leading to the final closing of the work.

Heaven and Earth are not kind was composed in the historic EMS studios at the University of Illinois. It will be featured on an upcoming recording to be released by the University of Illinois in late 2011.


released September 15, 2011



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Leon Harrell Urbana, Illinois

Leon Harrell is a composer, pianist and educator who creates music that grabs your attention and refuses to let go.

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