Collective Effervescence (2022)

“Society in general, simply by its effect on men’s minds, undoubtedly has all that is required to arouse the sensation of the divine. A society is to its members what a god is to its faithful. A god is first of all a being that man conceives of as superior to himself in some respects and one on whom he believes he depends. Whether that being is a conscious personality, like Zeus or Yahweh, or a play of abstract forces as in totemism, the faithful believe they are bound to certain ways of acting that the nature of the sacred principle they are dealing with has imposed upon them.”

-Émile Durkheim, The Elementary Forms of Religious Life 

The orchestral composition Collective Effervescence is split into two movements and performed by 55 musicians. A typical orchestra is, by design, inevitably a society with members engaged in the ritual of highly coordinated music performance. The audience and the orchestra together form an even bigger society that reifies the ritual presented onstage with affirmative attention and behavioral rule-following.

The anthropologist Émile Durkheim coined the term “collective effervescence” in order to describe the process of individuals coordinating together into a whole that performs impassioned rituals in order to attain a higher state of existence.

This piece explores coordinated rituals embodied in the musical energy; the pitch material is generated from a bespoke microtonal scale performed by the orchestra, which includes both a detuned piano and harp.