PENSÉES NOCTURNES

Composer: 

Alternate Title: 

PENSEES NOCTURNES

Year Authored (or revised): 

1994

Instrumentation : 

Sop, vln, vc, pf

Duration (min): 

15

Text Source/Author: 

source: Blaise Pascal, Pensées, Librarie Garnier, 1922, Paris

Text Language - Non English: 

French

First Performance: 

Written for the New World Ensemble: Anhared Stowe, Director

Composer's note: Pensées Nocturnes is a setting of passages from Blaise Pascal's Pensées. The seventeenth century French mathematician-theologian is one of the most important advocates for the existence of God in history, and his aphoristic Pensées slowly build up a case for a Supreme Being through a set of rigorously logical steps, in particular based on a sort of metaphysical probability theory that demands that man "wager"---if you bet that God exists, and He does, you win everything; if He does not, you are no worse off than if you did not believe in the first place (but if you wager against Him, and he does exist, you are damned. What's to lose?) I fear I cannot accept Pascal's argument whole; I am too much a late twentiethcentury humanist agnostic. But I find his depictions of man's confrontation with the void of the universe, his overpowering sense of man's helplessness in face of the Infinite, to be heartbreakingly beautiful and poignant. These portions of the book sum up man's existentialist dilemna perfectly, and at the very least crystallize the reasons for man's need for God, whether that need is met or not. So man faces the night sky, the great void filled with stars, and ponders his fate.

Print Edition Price: 

$29 performance set: 2 scores, parts
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