HAPTADAMA is a concert-length a cappella opera for 40 solo voices that recounts the creation story of the ancient Zorastrians. The ancient Persian cosmology begins with a primeval struggle between Ahuramazda and Ahriman, the universal deities of good and evil. Before the beginning of time, Ahriman climbs out of the abyss and attacks Ahuramazda on high. Ahuramazda chants the ancient melody of the Ahuna var, and stuns Ahriman into submission. While Ahriman is unconscious, Ahuramazda creates the world, which takes seven forms: the Sky, the Water, the Earth, the Plants, Gav (the first animal, an ox), Gayomart (the first human), and the Fire (that which is sacred to all Zoroastrians). After these seven, Ahuramazda creates the Sun, the Moon, the Stars (including the zodiac), and his six avatars: the Holy Immortals. Along with Ahuramazda, the Holy Immortals become the caretakers for each of these seven creations. When he comes to consciousness, Ahriman attacks each of the seven creations, bringing death and destruction to each, but also contributing to the current form of the world as we know it. Ahriman is then vanquished by the Sky Warrior and the Frahvars, and thrown into Hell. Afterwards, the world is then repaired by Tištar, the Wind Warrior, the Tree of Life, and of course, Ahuramazda himself. Although Gav and Gayomart and the primeval Plants perish, their legacy lives on in the multiplicity of plant and animal species and humankind, and their essence is enshrined in the Sun, Moon, and Stars, to reflect upon our world and remind us of their sacrifice at the beginning of time. Throughout the narrative of this cosmology, verses from the Gathas are interspersed, concluding with the most joyous strains that refer to Heaven with the unforgettable moniker: “the house of song.” What choral enthusiast wouldn’t endorse such a description of the afterlife?
The texts for this work are drawn from the Bundahišn, a document with its recorded origins in the 6th or 7th century CE, and the Gathas which are hallowed as the words of Zarathuštra (known as Zoroaster in Greek). TheGathas are most likely the oldest music in recorded history, and have been handed down by the rote oral memorization of Zoroastrian priests (or dastur), from father to son, since Zoroaster first uttered them. Some think that Zoroaster lived between 1500 and 2000 years before Christ, perhaps 4000 years ago. The relationship between the Gathas and the Bundahišn, is truly remarkable. The hymns of Zarathustra ask so many questions about the origins of the universe, and the cosmological text from two millennia later answers them in great and beautiful detail – always acknowledging the cosmic balance between good and evil, and emphasizing the human choice between the two that is so essential to the Zoroastrian faith.
This opera was recorded in the superlative acoustics of Holy Rosary Catholic Church in West Seattle, where The Esoterics has made nearly all of its other CDs. This release marks the twelfth compact disc for The Esoterics, and the first full-length recording of the music of Eric Banks.
|The seven creations (2007-2010)||Eric Banks|
|2||The seven creations|
|6||The restoration of the world|
|7||The house of song|