Mysticae Visiones - Structural anaysis



It is important to clarify that no attempt is made to make an exact and comprehensive presentation of a specific metaphysical school. The brief descriptions included here are for the purpose of supporting the structural analysis of Mysticae Visiones.

I also want to make clear that this analysis is not essential for the enjoyment of the piece. Music must be able to speak for itself and move the listener without the need for a rational explanation of its underlying structure. This analysis is meant as a complement, aimed for listeners with a musical background who want to understand how the piece was constructed. Another reason for presenting this essay is to demonstrate that "classical" or "academic" music is not the only musical genre that can be subject to this type of analysis

Many metaphysical treatises are based on an essential postulate: the evolution of the soul is achieved by the experience acquired along a series of incarnations. Put simply and briefly, the soul's existence as a human being is a cyclic alternation between material and immaterial phases. Each phase in turn, goes through a series of stages. Mysticae Visiones is a musical representation of feelings and sensations experienced along the following stages (note that they are all multiples of 7)

Birth and Childhood

Transition from the immaterial to the material phase and human existence between birth and 14 years old. Some attributes of this phase represented in Mysticae are innocence, tenderness and curiosity.


Between 14 and 28 years old. Mysticae attempts to represent the most important aspect of this stage: the ability to dream.


Between 28 and 56 years old. The music intends to convey the drive, energy and strength which are basic attributes of this stage, where an attempt is made to construct the dreams formulated in the previous stage.


Between 56 and death, a gradual transition is made into a more serene approach to life. As death is approached, humans are more receptive to the idea of transcendence. This feeling, many times only subjective, puts humans into reflective mode.


Musical representation of the transit between phases. The ideas presented in this section are exposed again during the Epilogue: death as experienced in the immaterial phase prior to a new incarnation


According to some metaphysical schools, this stage is driven by a feeling of uncertainty, especially in cases of sudden and unexpected material death. Attributes of this stage represented in Mysticae are: anxiety, confusion, the desperate need to run somewhere, without knowing where to...


The initial state of confusion gives rise to a meditative stage. All previous incarnations are remembered and the last material phase is analyzed from a broader perspective.

First, Second and Third Heavens

According to some metaphysical schools, heaven and hell (more precisely, purgatory) do exist in a certain way. After the meditation phase, the soul re-experiences its last incarnation. In the first heaven, the only moments experienced are those where some harm was made, either to oneself or to others. It is believed that one is capable of feeling, greatly magnified, what others felt or suffered as a consequence of our actions.

On the contrary, the second heaven only deals with actions that generated a positive effect, either to oneself, or to others. Again, one is capable of experiencing (magnified) the happiness and satisfaction felt by those affected by our good actions.

The third heaven initiates the process that ends in a new incarnation. It is triggered by the soul's desire to execute an action, or a series of actions. This desire is the result of the previous two heavens: emerges the desire to complete a project, to amend a mistake, or to taste unexplored facets of the material existence.

It is believed that evolution as humans is completed when no further desire for material action is felt in the third heaven. In that case, soul's evolution continues through forms of existence not linked to material incarnations.


General characteristics

Mysticae Visiones, as well as the reincarnation process, is based on a cyclical structure. With the repeat option activated in the CD player, if fades IN and OUT were excluded it would not be possible to determine the start and end point of the work. The piece is constructed upon a number of thematic entities: melodic, harmonic and rhythmic. The most important one is a harmonic entity based on an augmented decreasing fourth interval: A – Eflat. These two notes act as building blocks that represent the binary nature of our existence as humans: material and immaterial phases, birth and death, vigil and sleep, systole and diastole, inhale and exhale, etc. We will refer to this as the Main Harmonic Entity (MHE).

All parts in this piece are joined by the use of the thematic entities, but always include independent ideas that are specific to each stage and may not be presented elsewhere. The only exception is on the Epilogue, where all ideas are subordinate to the ones presented in the Prologue and Death sections in order to preserve the cyclical nature of the piece.

A non-concrete synthesized pattern is heard at the beginning of Prologue (track 1), the end of Epilogue (track 12) (transit from immaterial to material phase) and between Death (track 6) and Transition (track 7) (transit from material to immaterial phase). The lack of form in the pattern represents the void; the absence of form and consciousness during the transition between both phases.

Prologo – Pista 1

From the non-concrete pattern emerge the notes A – Eflat, the basic building block of the entire piece. A series of chords based on an Eflat pedal end with the same interval in preparation for the progressive appearance of all the soloists that will intervene throughout the piece. Voice and piano appear simultaneously, and again blend in the A – Eflat interval. The acoustic guitar appearance initiates a fragment that yields to the introduction of the main melodic entity. Bass, electric guitar and drums join in this preparation and the main melodic entity (MME) is presented:

the drums introduce the main rhythmic pattern entity, that will be used along the piece, especially during the Transition stage. A variation of the MME is presented by the EW5 (emulating a sax) and the electric guitar, immediately after which the MME is presented as such by the flute. After a short trill, the flute introduces the subordinate melodic entity (SME1) that will play a major role during the immaterial phase and will not be heard again until Meditation:

The cello introduces and develops the independent ideas of the Prologue. The Prologue ends with the first formal variation of the A – E flat interval (MHE). This variation is presented again during the climax in the Third Heaven, just before the Epilogue. In order words, the same variation of the Main Harmonic Entity is used to end the Prologue and to introduce the Epilogue. This MHE variation ends with a dual flute/EW5 solo, where the MME is used. Finally, the Epilogue concludes with a short piano fragment, based on the use of a whole-tone scale.

Birth and Childhood – Track 2

From the A – Eflat interval, the material phase emerges through the sound of a heart beat. This first part of a second subordinate melodic entity (SME2) is presented. This idea is formed by eight notes; the first four suggest a question, answered by the other four notes. On this stage, only the first four notes are presented. Unlike the other melodic entities, this subordinate entity will always be presented without variations, by the piano. The rhythm of the heart is used as the rhythmic pattern in this section. The piano appears with chords that follow the heart beat. Most of the section is based on piano and acoustic guitar. A short development section introduces a dual solo with flute and synthesizer. The section ends with a harmonic progression similar to the one that ends the Prologue, but modifying the scale so that this time it is ordinary (not whole-tone).

Youth – Track 3

This section is strongly influenced by resources from the impressionist period. It can be considered as two miniature chamber pieces, one for piano, cello and flute and the other for voice and piano, bridged by a short symphonic intermezzo. Note that the solo piano fragment before the intermezzo, retakes the rhythmic heartbeat pattern used in the "Birth and Childhood" section.

Manhood – Track 4

Drive and energy are represented in this section that takes most of its resources from jazz. It is based on two solos, first by the flute and then by the synthesizer, with a sort piano bridge. The flute solo is improvised. The synthesizer solo is written.

Reflection – Track 5

The heart of this section is a guitar solo constructed upon the ideas presented in the previous sections. The way this solo is constructed, aims to represent the remembrances of an incarnation that is approaching its end. Explicit references are made of the Main Melodic Entity, as well as ideas from the Birth and Childhood section. The harmonic foundation of the solo, is based on the Main Harmonic Entity as shown by the bass pattern between 00:25 and 00:55.

Death – Track 6

The solo in the previous section fades and the heart beat reappears. The second subordinate melodic entity (SME2) is presented, but this time answered by the second group of four notes. The section is based on a symphonic arrangement in AB form, that is reduced as death is approached. Before reaching transition, music is reduced to a single note from a single instrument. The heart beat, progressively loosing strength, finally stops leaving only the non-concrete synthesized pattern, representing the void. At the end of the A section, the guitar presents another subordinate melodic entity (SME3). This melodic entity, just as it is heard now before the transit from the material to the immaterial phase, will only be heard again before the transit from immaterial to material existence, during the Epilogue. Section B is based on the Main Harmonic Entity – the lower strings follow the decreasing A – Eflat interval.

Transition – Track 7

Anxiety and confusion are represented by the obsessive recurrence of ideas and the use of polyrhythmic layers. The drums take the rhythmic entity presented in the Prologue and the EW5 (emulating a sax) is used as a percussive element. The first section, where guitar, flute and piano play the same tune in unison, can be regarded as a tribute to Olivier Messiaen's Quartet for the End of Times, where this resource is used in piece VI: Danse de la fureur, pour les sept trompettes.

Meditation – Track 8

Anxiety fades and finally the soul is at peace with its new state. As described in the Overview, previous incarnations are remembered and the last material phase is analyzed from a broader perspective. This last human life, exposed under the light of previous incarnations, is represented in this piece by a vocal arrangement based on the use of the same voice, overdubbed. A unique voice, representing a single soul, but four parts representing previous human lives that are blended in a single experience where time and space are undefined. The vocal arrangement fades out and the soul starts preparation for its immaterial existence through the Three Heavens. The piano presents the second subordinate melodic entity, never heard again since its introduction in the Prologue, and blends it with the Main Melodic Entity. This piano exposition is followed by an EW5 solo improvisation that signals the beginning of the Three Heavens. The piano accompaniment during the solo is based on the use of SME2, which will be used extensively throughout the Three Heavens.

First Heaven – Track 9

The entire section, in ABC form with a short introduction and a coda, is constructed upon ideas that aim to reflect the characteristics of this First Heaven. Multiple references to MME and SME1 are used, including rhythmic and melodic variations. Explicit references to these instances are excluded in order for the listener to find them for himself. The introduction is based on a synthesizer solo that presents a melodic entity only used in this section. This new entity is blended with SME1 and MME, giving rise to section A where guitar and drums play a leading role. The first five bars present meter changes according to the following pattern: 4/4, 5/4, 4/4, 4/4, 6/8. The rest of this section, in 4/4, ends with an abrupt change to 3/8 at the beginning of section B which begins with the melodic entity presented in the introduction. A short drum pattern divides sections B and C. The predominant feature of section C, in 6/8 tempo, is a polyrhythmic structure where bass, drums, organ, piano and synthesizer have different syncopation. It can be subdivided into two subsections, featuring a synthesizer and an organ solo. Again, an abrupt meter change to 4/4 introduces the coda, based on a variation of the Main Harmonic Entity.

Second Heaven – Track 10/h2>

The main resource used in this stage is a free-form imitation (as opposed to other imitation forms like canon and fugue, which are subject to rules). The main theme from Meditation is retaken and developed in conjunction with the presentation and development of the Second Heaven's main theme. All the solo instruments used in the piece are presented sequentially, in the following order: cello, synthesizer, electric guitar, flute, EW5 (emulating a sax), and voice. Once a solo instrument is introduced, it remains adding to the imitation scheme and contributing to the harmonic structure. The result is an increasing cycle that ends with a final section where all six soloists share the leading role. Take note of the piano chords in the four bars just before the cello presents the Second Heaven's Main theme. They introduce a Subordinate Harmonic Entity that will be used extensively in the Second and Third Heavens (again, no explicit reference will be made in this analysis).

Third Heaven – Track 11

The Third Heaven emerges from the Second Heaven with a syncopated 4/4 pattern over a running bass. The thirst for action that triggers a new incarnation is represented by a synthesizer solo, merged with a guitar solo constructed upon the melodic entities presented throughout the piece. A variation of the Second Heaven's main theme, blended with a variation of the MME in conjunction with a variation of the MHE, from 1:01 to 1:17 yield a climax that ends with the variation of the MHE referred to in the analysis of the Prologue.

Epilogue – Track 12

The Epilogue starts with the same ideas presented in the Prologue, introducing a harmonic change from 00:32 to 00:44 to blend into the Death section, but now exposed under a new light. This re-exposition of Death is initiated by the last appearance of SME2. Bear in mind that birth in a new incarnation, is preceded by some form of death in the immaterial phase. As mentioned in the Death analysis, SME3 is again presented as a unifying entity. This melodic entity is meant to be identified with the idea of death, experienced both in the material and immaterial phases. Finally, the decreasing A – Eflat interval appears in conjunction with the non-concrete synthesized pattern that fades out: again – the void.



Carlos Plaza Vegas - August, 2001