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The Gates of Niflheim

The Gates of Niflheim

Jeremy Bell

In Norse mythology, Niflheim is the cold, dark, misty world of the dead, ruled by the goddess Hel, Loki’s daughter.  In some accounts it was the last of nine worlds, a place into which evil men passed after reaching the region of death.  Situated below one of the roots of the world tree, Yggdrasill, Niflheim contained a well, Hvergelmir, from which many rivers flowed.  Hvergelmir was the oldest of the three wells under the world tree and was protected by the dragon Nidhogg.  Hvergelmir was the origin of all being and the place where every being will go back.

The title for this piece arose well after finishing it, but the idea of a realm shrouded in mist seemed to captivate my imagination and gave rise to the present title.  The piece begins softly, with trumpets and muted horns sustaining on a C while the English Horn solo opens its motive on a G, creating an hollow open fifth that doesn’t clarify the key right away.   And like the beginning, the piece fades away, ending with an open fifth built on G.

This arrangement for Wind Ensemble is adapted from the orchestral version, which can be found in the Orchestra section of this site with a live recording taken from a reading session done by Arizona State University students.

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