Written for Eton College Chapel Choir.
Justorum animae in manu Dei sunt, et non tanget illos tormentum malitiae.
Visi sunt oculis insipientium mori: Illi autem sunt in pace.
The souls of the righteous are in the hands of God, and the torment of malice shall not touch them:
They seem in the eyes of the foolish to be dead, but they are at peace.
For Messiaen, E-major had strong religious connotations, representing a hymnic praise of God. The French master has strongly influenced my music of late, so I thought it only natural to set 'Justorum Animae' using this supposedly theological key. The piece begins with a unison E, however the ethereal chord that subsequently unfolds – marked 'lontano' (as if from a distance) – is ambiguous and decidedly non-tonic. In fact, the only E-major we ever hear is the last chord of the piece, setting 'pace' – peace. Thus, this elusive tonic represents the destination for the music; the haven for the titular 'souls of the righteous' who must first endure the 'torment of malice', as depicted by tumultuous episodes in the middle of the piece. Once bathed in this final, tranquil sonority, the music gradually dies away, aided by the direction 'al niente' (to nothing).