Two toned image of Shase Hernandez

Shase Hernandez

Ginnungagap

Viola and Piano 7.5 minutes

Ginnungagap is part of the Nordic creation myth. It is a place of chaos and absolute silence that lies between the realms of Muspelheim and Niflheim. Muspelheim is a realm of fire and intense heat while Niflheim is a realm of great cold and ice. Upon the effulgence of Muspelheim and Niflheim in Ginnungagap Ymir, the first of the godlike giants, was born from the melting ice of Niflheim. As the frost continued to melt a cow emerged. This cow nourished Ymir with her milk and the cow, Audhumbla, was herself nourished from salt licks in the ice. It is from these salt licks that the first God's of the Aesir tribe were born and their progeny eventuated in the birth of Odin. The God Ymir is in time murdered by Odin, Viii, and Ve who fashion from his body the Earth. The God's create the first man and woman, Ask and Embla, from two tree trunks and protect them from the giants by building a fence around their place of existence, the realm of Midgard in which Earth presides.

When I imagined Ginnungagap I saw an endless void in which everything that might reside within it was infinitesimally small and as such I wrote grand figures that span the range of the piano to demonstrate the immensity of Ginnungagap. It is also a place of chaos but a mild place neither too hot nor too cold. There lie on either side a realm of opposing nature that converges slowly upon Ginnungagap. One is hot, one is cold. The realm of Muspelheim is restless and mischievous. Its flames lick to and fro as they sneak around unpredictably, periodically reaching a great height and dying back down again. These flames always move forward.

So too does the nature of Niflheim of which I view as somewhat more subdued and illusory. The cold, while invisible, takes form at times as ice and marches forward almost prideful but somewhat clumsily. Eventually the two meet in Ginnungagap and their effulgence is great. They defect one another and the chaos of Ginnungagap meets them as an equal in their own personal chaoses which die away leaving behind Ymir and the eventual creation of mankind. In Nordic myth mankind is almost an eternal symbol of hope and triumph. Even after the events of Ragnarok, when the Gods cease to exist and all of the cosmos are almost destroyed, life is left in the only two simple and 'powerless' human beings that remain and it is these two who will bring life again absent of the Gods.

I felt inclined to give a nod to Das Rheingold in which the Nordic tales of Wotan (Odin) and so many others are immensely expanded upon in great musical fashion and to which some of the motivic ideas are crafted, at least in their curvature. An undulating up and down in triads that move in parallel motion but do break from their form from time to time, the tone poem ends hinting at the events to come as pinned in those grand operas.

Full Set

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Score

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Head back to the music catalog to take a look at more pieces.

Listen to Ginnungagap

Justine Preston, viola
Yilin Liu, piano

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