Tarot cards were not originally used for their current occult function, but as playing cards. It is through the evocative imagery of each card that they have gained their esoteric purpose, which in turn enhanced the descriptions of each card as meaningful symbols. The Major Arcana (greater secrets), the 22 trump cards do not belong to any suit but are sometimes described as telling a journey through life. Each card has a distinctive image and carries a wealth of symbolism, regardless of whether you think they have a deeper power, or they are a nonsense game. This piece reinterprets the image of each card as sound and music, representing various aspects of the human experience.
The Fool is, as both a card and a piece of music, an introduction, overture, or even a harbinger to that which he precedes.
He is as depicted starting out on a journey, innocent but without the knowledge and experience of a wiser person. Here he is represented with a brief and unfulfilled fanfare-like trumpet blast which almost instantly develops into incessant chatter and business. There is an almost constant and throbbing backdrop to his exposition.
The Magician sits at his table with the tools of his trade and is full of possibility, both good and bad. Musically, he creates the soundworld around him by spitting out the names of the four elements and various celestial bodies in an almost private ritual. With each iteration of his spells another veil is thrown over reality; time slows, sounds swirl, as if his magic is close to rendering him unconscious.
The High Priestess (or Popess) is surrounded by a cohort of voices, each one belonging to a different note. The voices gather pace as they descend forever, becoming inhumanly fast. She sits in a cloud of evaporating sound as if she is above all worldly endeavours on her ethereal throne. The last thing we hear is the rising of the residue of the once corporeal voices as she finds wisdom.
The soft power of The Empress manifests in a duet between flute and lute, evoking courtly music, yet there is an otherworldly aspect to the lute which cannot stay within the confines of our temporal experience. As the ultimate symbol of femininity and fertility she is clearly paired with her husband, The Emperor. They share the melody of their music yet their performances are completely divergent.
The Emperor continues the motifs of his wife but epitomises masculine power and self-control. Her delicate, yet powerful music has become a march of physical power in his hands. Where there were flutes we now hear the herald with a horn; her lute gestures have become a pounding and unsubtle drum.
The Hierophant, or Pope, is surrounded by the rudiments of his faith and the echoes of whispers in his vast stone palaces and churches. These whispers are sometimes indecipherable from chant. The worldly and the spiritual are as one to The Hierophant as everything he puts his mind to is inherently spiritual.
The Lovers stand in a garden full of life, and beneath the heavens. The passion and fire is tempered by tenderness and care. String-like voices surround the garden with a stasis of calm confidence. The sound of water flowing increases and the intensity of the melody matches it, becoming a steady declaration by two people in the world.
The Chariot attempts to harness physical and mental powers and to bring them in harmony. It moves with confidence and purpose but in unknown directions. We hear it speed past us from various perspectives, making its presence known with a blast of the horn as it does, the reverberations return from the distance. In the moments of calm the sparkle of the ground in front of The Chariot warns us of its approach.
Strength is energy directed to a purpose, and we hear this as a machine turning over with a guttural roar which develops into a perpetual rhythmic counterpoint. Its power and drive come from its own momentum. It grows and reaches its zenith before powering down to rest, the mechanisms dying and decaying under their own steam.
The Hermit is a contemplative individual. Here are the sounds of icy mountain tops, of lonely coastlines. The music is calm and the pace is slow, his introspection is deep. The string sounds turn gently, with ideas occasionally breaking almost violently over the top of this solitude.
The Wheel of Fortune is explored here as the moment in time where all possible future paths are laid out, before the future is resolved. The continuous ticking of the clock slows to a halt, the chimes and the ticking become one and the same thing, the events which will follow are not yet decided, The Wheel is spinning without moving. As the course of the future is set, time returns to normality. The die has been cast.
The sword of Justice is heard being pulled from its scabbard, followed by the icy consequences of that action. The turning of the world is affected by Justice, enacted through both law and chivalry. The sounds of the sword become blended with the voices in the background to form a choir, as if the precedence of this Justice will have far reaching implications.
The sounds of the wind, the decay of the nervous system, the creak of the gallows, the flies, and the tapping of the crows are the only sounds left to hear as The Hanged Man sways in the barren field. You are hearing through the ears of the dead man.
A phase of life has come to an end. Death stands in a timeless deserted land. He plays a strummed motif on a rare stringed instrument which makes its proud declaration at the crest of a wave of reverberation, because time and Death are related. The apparent bleakness of his song is underpinned by a forbidding and cadential drone.
Plates of water sing with a bell-like resonance. Their music is produced by the imperfect geometry of their design and the chaotic movement of the water within. Temperance represents the necessary period of self-nurture and balance after tumultuous change.
The Devil represents the power of uncontrolled cravings. The snarling and malevolent Devil holds humanity captive. He is heard speaking in an infernal language of grunts and snorts, there is an unholy organ accompanying him, with occasional gestures to match him.
An argument erupts from The Tower, panic and chaos as lightning strikes. The two people fall to their ruin. Alluding to the Tower of Babel, the piece is constant chatter and arguments of voices confronted with sharp snaps of violence.
The Italian name of this card (La Casa Del Diavolo) translates as 'The House of the Devil' and represents sudden catastrophe. In a landscape filled with towers this was a reminder that all things must end.
This is the first of the triptych, The Star, The Moon, and The Sun which share many themes. The Star is the symbol for hope that good will triumph over evil in many western cultures and is in fact the last word in Dante's Inferno.
Distant waves of light carry information about the star, about its structure and its make up. The mood is optimistic.
While The Star represented hope, The Moon shows a need for patience. Taking one's time is a necessary if sometimes difficult part of life. The shards of light of the moon fracture like glass on the water, reflecting how contemplation can be tinged with sadness.
The Sun no longer asks for hope or patience, it demands action. A singular tone grows from its dawn and expands almost uncontrollably. The fire of the sun bursts outwards, distorting anything it encounters, the raw energy and power are almost painful. As The Sun reaches its peak it begins its descent back behind the earth, the light slowly fading into the dusk, and it is once again a single tone.
Judgement is heralded by a trumpet which can be heard everywhere on earth. The reverberations and reflections of its almighty blast penetrate deep into the ground and summon the dead from the sleep. The day of reckoning has come.
Perfect balance is achieved in The World. Having found happiness, one is above The World and can look down on it from a new perspective. We pass over the hive of humanity, still in full activity, from your calm and distant orbit.