Bosch.  The Fall of the Rebel Angels (obverse) 1500-04. Oil on panel, 69 x 35 cm. Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam

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Download "La chute des anges rebelles" (3.8 MB)

La Chute des anges rebelles (The Fall of the Rebellious Angels)

This picture by Bosch inspired me to write a piece in which clarinet, bassoon, and piano share in the strange fate of Satan's angels—those angels that decided to go their own way instead of spending their entire existence simply bowing down in awe and praising their creator. Their fate is harsh as portrayed in Bosch's picture: after all, they acted of their own free will, but their anti-establishment choice condemns them to the lower levels of eternity.

The piece starts with a wicked, joyful, and sparky melody in mixolydian mode where the angels find their own ways to enjoy themselves. Suddenly the darkness of the superlocrian mode takes over and they are confronted by the Archangel Michael, who is spoiling for a fight on behalf of his master.

Michael prevails because—after all—the creator is not one to cock a snook at!

They are cast down into the nether regions, where they mourn their fate, but—apparently—they are not really stuck there. Legend has it that the angels of Satan (i.e., the demons) are amongst us. So the wickedly joyful tune comes back as they wreak their mischievous vengeance on Earth, since they can't get back into Heaven.

The superlocrian mode of despair prevails in the end, because there is no way that the creator is going to let them have their way.

The final few bars, with the low trills on the bassoon and the sharp chords of the piano and clarinet, represent the final "locking down" of these angels in the place where they are condemned to stay: back in Bosch's picture.

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Last updated May 31, 2008
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