The Persephone Quartets
Please enjoy the music as you read!
The Greek myth of Persephone revolves around a being who has four very different expressions. She is first the adored daughter of Demeter, the Goddess of the Earth and of the harvest, then the abducted woman, then the Queen of the Underworld, then the Ascendency of Life into Light again. A divine figure of uncomfortable complexity for a modern mind, a sacred myth which we often want to package into more bite-sized bits.
Persephone is many things to many people and different cultures. It is my hope with these works to light a more unified presence of her in our imaginations. For us today she is best remembered as the Eternal Divine Girl, the Sacred Virgin, but she is also revered as the High Queen of the Underworld by many pagan traditions still practicing today. The Greeks held her to be a just Queen of the Underworld, willing to help and support worthy men and women. Yet, whether seen as girl, victim, a queen or a goddess, she is in actuality one being, and the movements of this being leave in their wake the four seasons of Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. She is the cycle of eternal life, born of Earth but married to the Lord of the Underworld.
May these works inspire contemplation of the deep mythological complexities of Persephone. Consider this an invitation to engage with the myth of Persephone, in all her grandeur, complexity and beauty. This is an invitation to engage the complexity of a Beautiful and Just Goddess, and to begin your own imaginative relationship with her. For best results, and as with all things, it is best approach with honor and respect assuming as little as possible in order to allow your experience of the myth to evolve freely in you. I hope you enjoy and I look forward to hearing about your experiences.
Persephone in the Garden (Pt. 1)
We meet Persephone in Spring. She is joyfully and playfully dancing around a beautiful meadow, a picture of love and nature, birds and butterflies, soft sunlight, blue skies. She is innocence and purity and the world delights in her being.
Her mother, Demeter, is full of adoration of her, but her adoration goes beyond love into being over-bearing and over-protective of her. She would hold and protect Persephone in Virginal Spring forever.
Persephone herself has indeed denied all suitors and seems content to dance in the spring fields endlessly loving nature and all the beasts and plants she shares the meadow with. She is the divine and eternal Girl.
But as life accepts no static, unchanging way of being. Perhaps for Demeter and the old gods and goddesses that would be enough, but Persephone loves life too much, and seems by her every act to want to participate in it.
And now in the corner of the meadow a new kind of flower catches her eye. It is a daffodil, and she is drawn to it, something she has never before seen. She reaches for it unsure of it's meaning, but perhaps aware that it is a significant gesture. And indeed it is.
The Abduction of Persephone (Pt.2)
It is, of course, more than another flower. We are to learn that this never-before-seen flower is a gift, or a trap, from a very powerful being who is about to enter the story.
Perhaps if she had left it to be, all would be different, but she reached down a picked the flower, and the earth opens up and Hades, the Lord of the Underworld, rises up into the light and drags her down into the Underworld to be his Queen.
Persephone is never given a chance to speak for herself on this matter, so we must try to read her by her actions. She is, of course, confused and unhappy- as anyone would be taken without their consent someplace new. But the Lord of the Underworld treats her with great respect and honor, and minds her needs to the best of his ability, which we must assume is quite impressive, being the Lord of the Underworld.
Meanwhile, Demeter, upon realizing Persephone is missing, falls into a deep rage and depression, and withholds the growth of life on Earth. The plants begin to die, the weather grows cold, and there is great suffering on Earth. This is the first Winter, but it promises to be an eternal winter since Demeter refuses to allow growth on Earth if her daughter is held as a prisoner under the earth.
The other Gods of the Light World, realize this is an unacceptable situation, as none wish to be Gods prevailing over a cold dead rock. Demeter then learns that Zeus had granted Hades the right to claim Persephone as his Queen, so Hades has acted in accordance with the agreement. In end effect, Hermes is sent to the Underworld, a world of different Gods and Goddesses, to try to persuade Hades to release Persephone back into the light.
Persephone in the Underworld (Pt. 3)
In the meantime, Hades has treated Persephone as his Queen and attended to her every need. It may well be that she has fallen in love with him, but she is never given a voice to speak to us directly. But here is a sense that she is beginning to grow into her role as Queen, and perhaps beginning to appreciate the love her Lord is offering her. Personally, I envision this movement of the music through Persephone's eyes as she surveys her kingdom. As Hades listens to Hermes plea to release Persephone to her mother and the light world, he is displeased with it. He does however offer Persephone a way to make her own choice. She can stay with him as his beloved queen as the agreement with Zeus stated, and as his heart would wish, but she must make the choice for herself. He releases her to her own decision. An unusual and uncharacteristic act for a God, which again speaks of true love and respect for his captured bride.
Ascension and the Seasons (pt. 4)
Hades, having shown that his intentions are true union and the sharing of power in his kingdom, finally returns to Persephone her power of self-determination. She is free to return to her mother if that is what she wishes, or if she prefers, he offers her an option- the seeds of a pomegranate to eat. She can choose how many seeds she wishes to eat, and for each seed she eats she will return to him for a month. Exercising this choice, Persephone does eat some seeds, sealing the arrangement that she will return and live in Light a portion of the year and return to Hades for one portion of each year. Again we do not have her explaining her reasoning in her own voice on the matter- so we must deduce her motives by reading her choice to return to Hades every year with her Lord for all time.
This is the birth of the seasons. Spring being the dawning of Persephone on Earth and Demeter allows the earth to grow again, Summer being the time Persephone is full in the power of adulthood with her Mother and the world of light and nature, Autumn being the evening of the cycle, and preparation for Persephone's descent to her King and the sorrow of Demeter for losing her to the Underworld again for a season, and Winter being the cold night time of the cycle when Persephone rules the Underworld as Just Queen and Demeter withholds vitality on Earth.
The Persephone Quartets will be four works (two of which are presented above) approximately twenty minutes in length all together, which is conceived of as music for dance or ballet celebrating the mythology, presence and story of Persephone. The music is composed for Violin, Viola, Cello and Guitar, and is intended as an invitation to explore with our imaginations the story and the presence of Persephone.
Violin: Wojciech Garbowski * Viola: Jenny Anschel * Cello: Jonathan Weigle * Guitar: Greg Dinunzi
Composer: Greg Dinunzi
Recorded by Jörg Surrey at Surrealis Sounds @ Teldex Studios, Berlin
Produced by Greg Dinunzi & Anna Knaifel
I look forward to your thoughts and comments!