A Music Drama In Three Acts

by Christopher Mohr

Copyright 1998, by Classical Guide, Inc.


When I was a college student, I was invited to join six other guys in a gang-rape. In “round one,” each of us was going to tear off one item of clothing. There was so much violence in the air I knew I couldn’t fight them. When it was my turn, I said, “Hold it, you guys, I think she needs some water first. I’ll take her to the drinking fountain down the hall.” Amazingly, the guys said okay, and let me walk out the door with her. She got out safely and that was the end of the rape. When I returned, I was in a screaming rage, and my dorm neighbors slinked off into their rooms.

I did the “right thing,” but it felt like a supreme effort of will not to be caught up in this tidal wave of mob energy around me. Part of me wanted to join in. I went into a deep depression and tremendous confusion as I confronted for the first time my own “shadow.”

For the next two years I had recurring dreams of violent tribal rituals, all of which had very powerful musical accompaniment. I began to ask myself, if I depict in music the gang rape I almost witnessed, would anything emerge but an ugly, cynical composition? I swore that if I were to go ahead with composing such an opera, I would find out what the truth was about what happened, no matter how long it took. What is the “truth?” I wanted to know, even if the answer I got was monstrous and ugly. I would either find out or give up on the entire project and throw it away. That was the beginning of a long journey of self-exploration.

It took twenty-two years to complete this music drama. From the Realm of the Shadow has a rape scene in it, but it is not “about” rape and its aftermath. It is about the truth of who we are, which can reveal itself even in our darkest despair, our bitterest cynicism, our deepest wounds. It is the unfolding discovery of that peace which lies at the heart of even the most reprehensible acts.

About The Music Drama

Our dreams may be populated by many characters, but in truth there is only one dreamer. So, too, are there many characters in From The Realm Of The Shadow, but a single consciousness pervades all of them. The shadowscape may be populated by many warring factions, but all of them are partial, and all of them eventually die into that which is always whole. Where is The Realm of the Shadow? It is the hiding place of any experience we reject, any part of ourselves we are afraid to look at. What a glorious surprise to discover that in The Realm of the Shadow we hide not only our darkest impulses but a Love which surpasses all understanding. Who is dreaming this terrible nightmare? What peace awaits us when we awaken from this dream!

From the Realm of the Shadow explores aspects of the human experience which are preverbal or superverbal in nature, which is why this music drama is sung but has no words. The soul begins in a state of perfect harmony in the overture, but this ideal state is quickly shattered in the first scene. Every form of physical contact and interaction in the music drama represents an attempt on the part of the psyche or spirit to reintegrate itself. In the beginning, these attempts are crude and violent, but eventually, these connections bring healing in spite of the apparent outer turmoil. Finally, the death of the conflicting parts and the revelation of the Self dissolve all conflict.

The music reverberates with the echoes of a wide range of styles, including Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, Romantic, early Twentieth Century, Microtonal, Folk, Middle Eastern, Jazz, Indian, Rock and Balinese. Purists will note that I have broken the traditional musical rules of every one of these styles, including many of the rules of Western music theory. There are many indirect references to various composers and their works, which are credited in these notes. A wide range of instruments is also represented: the symphony orchestra, Ukrainian folk instruments, saxophones, synthesizers, exotic percussion, pipe organ, classical Indian instruments, early music instruments, etc. An attempt was made to create the impression that all of the music of the world, and hence, a broad spectrum of human experience, is embraced by this piece.