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Details on the Strasbourg Rosace

by Spencer Topel


Details on the Strasbourg Rosace is a musical composition exploring proportions and transitions of fine-grain visual structure within sections of the Strasbourg Rosace (Rose), a stained-glass window located at the entrance of the Strasbourg Cathedral in Strasbourg, France. This particular window structure was designed and built under the supervision of Erwin von Steinbach, who was among three builders who guided the project to a completed state. The Strasbourg Rose is a notable masterwork within the cathedral, and exhibits stunning symmetrical grace, consisting of carefully proportioned transitions of darkness and light. Stone provides a negative space between the glass, which under optimal daylight conditions, produces an intense, pure, color.  




The order of the following details (movements) in this performance from Christ Church at Oxford, UK is performed continuously and reordered as follows:


I   II   III   IV   VI   V   VIII   IX

Derived from nine details, or sections, are musical parameters consisting of temporal harmony, structure, and dynamics, relating to color, position, and luminosity, along specific trajectories within each detail.

Another layer of influence stems from the only overt quotation, which appears in the first detail: the epic climax in Scriabin's "White" Sonata no. 7, where the music seems to reach an overwhelming point of ecstasy, exaggerated in this composition by shrill, high, trills played by the flute, clarinet, violin, and cello. What has since become known as the "Mystic Chord" forms the basis for the harmonic language for pure white light in Details on the Strasbourg Rosace

The “White” Sonata No. 7, Op. 64 by Aleksandr Scriabin


The intensity of this early climax never completely dissipates, and instead propels the music forward, reappearing at fleeting moments throughout the subsequent movements. In a similar vein, sentiments of spirituality, yearning, and even sadness within the work allude to the music of Messiaen, without directly pointing to a particular moment or composition. It is largely appropriate to evoke these two composers in the context of the Strasbourg Rose, which is both a landmark of architectural art, and a symbol of both the mystic and the divine.


-May 27th, 2014

Hanover, NH




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