The Vastness of the Universe (Alheimsvíðáttan)

The Vastness of the Universe (Alheimsvíðáttan) written for SATB divisi and STB soli is by far my most intense composition to date, sitting at a whopping ten movements, clocking in at just over twenty-two minutes, and requiring a collection of fabulous ears and impressive basses.

Purchase scores here:

I discovered the text, “The Vastness of the Universe (Alheimsvíðáttan)” when googling Icelandic poetry. Written by Jónas Hallgrímsson, one of Iceland’s most beloved poets whom the national holiday, “Day of the Icelandic Language” is named for, this poem describes not only the vastness, but the mystery and terrible wonder of our universe. The text is eleven stanzas long, but you will find that stanzas IX. and X. are almost identical. Because of this, I condensed those verses into one, leaving the work at a square X. movements (and satisfying my mild OCD about round numbers).

I began working on this composition over the summer of 2018 and finished it December 13, 2018, a crazy short amount of time for me to finish a work of such a length. The Vastness of the Universe (Alheimsvíðáttan) requires a fine attention to tuning and detail, as the work includes some prolific dissonances, as well as a collection of low basses to sing some of the C2’s-Eb2’s that round out the harmonic gestures that hint to the Scandinavian nature of the text.

I am excited to announce that The Vastness of the Universe (Alheimsvíðáttan) will be published and available for purchase from Novus Music Publishing, Inc. in 2019!

The text:

I am the speeding
spark of light
flung by God
from the forge of Chaos.
I soar on wings
swifter than wind
above the paths
of the pulsing stars.

Faster! faster!
to find the place
where cosmic waves
crash ashore:
to cast anchor
off that empty coast,
that far frontier
and final reach
of created things: —
the edge of heaven.

I watched the stars
in the womb of youth
rise from the still
streams of heaven,
eager to make
their million year
race through the thin
ethereal blue.


Later they flickered
faintly behind me
as I rushed on
to the rim of worlds.
I peered with anxious
eyes about me:
now I was steering
through starless voids.


Faster! faster!
to find the place
where Nothingness reigns
and inane Chaos,
wending my way
on wings of light,
steering toward port
with steady courage.


As I dart on
through dim greyness,
I encounter clouds
of cosmic dust.
Behind me I hear,
hushed in distance,
dark cataracts
of dying suns.


Suddenly, something
comes swiftly toward me
through empty night —
an image that speaks:
“Stay, oh traveller
tired with flight!
Tell me, wanderer —
what are you seeking?”


“My way leads on
to the worlds you come from!
My flight is destined
to those distant shores,
that far frontier
and final reach
of created things: —
the edge of heaven.”


“Cease your search,
sojourner! end
your futile wandering
through wastes of ether!
Know that ahead of you
lie nothing
but infinite tracts
of endlessness.”


“Cease your search,
sojourner! end
your futile wandering
through wastes of ether!
Behind me, too,
lie torrents of stars
and infinite, empty
endlessness.”


Oh eagle-mounting
imagination!
Cease your soaring,
descend to earth!
Oh swift voyager,
venturesome poet:
tired of creating,
cast your anchor here!

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