About the Pilgrimage
This pilgrimage is a labyrinth walk through sound. It can be listened to in-place (for example, lying down with headphones on) or to accompany a journey through a labyrinth. The labyrinth that was used for inspiration is located in the hills outside of Oakland. Mazzariello’s Maze was created by the psychic artist Helena Mazzariello and can be found in the Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve (you can learn more about it and view maps here). The labyrinth was sculpted illegally and still holds that status but continues to be accepted by the park.
This labyrinth, being “quiet and humble, yet up front and personal,” directed the tone of the piece.1 The composer, Elise Dubravec, desired to play a simple melody while evoking personal meditation. As pilgrims surrender to the pattern of a labyrinth, Elise hopes the song provides a space for listeners to surrender to the melody.2 The song is both a communal and individual pilgrimage because she is sharing it with others for their pilgrimage experience, but also, it is hoped that each listener will interpret the song in their own unique way.3
A Walk Through the Process with Elise Dubravec
Even though the song is inspired by Mazzariello’s Maze, I hope that it can be used for any labyrinth.
I found the composition process to be a pilgrimage itself. Composing a pilgrimage song was a mental pilgrimage. I believe that melody can enliven the pilgrim spirit.
During composition, I focused on the general stages of a labyrinth: Release, Receive, and Return.4 As the piece starts, I introduce the four main chords using glissandos. These chords are the structure of the song but are played in different ways throughout as the stages of the labyrinth progress. The introductory chords prepare the pilgrim before entering the labyrinth. Then, the bass line comes with the glissando chord as the pilgrim begins their initial steps.
Release is the first part of this piece as the lower register provides a slow tempo to accompany the pilgrim walking. The upper melody goes down the scale to mimic an exhale or a “letting go.” The simplicity and repetitiveness of Release allows the pilgrim’s mind to wander and enter deeper into meditation. The second part, Receive, arrives with single notes in the lower register. A different higher melody is introduced in hopes to elicit a receptive energy. I stopped the moving rhythm because at the center of the labyrinth, the pilgrim is motionless, receiving what they need in the middle.
The final part, the return, is what I call Renew. As the pilgrim is leaving the center, they have not yet returned to where they began. Therefore, I desired to capture a melody of the renewal and transformative journey. The pilgrim is bringing with them what they received at the center and renewing themselves. As they begin to walk away from the center, the upper register now holds the moving melody in contrast with Release. Instead, the base line provides embellishment and support to the melody. Additionally, the tempo is quickened to enliven and energize the pilgrim in their journey of renewal. This continues until the bass line from Release comes in but is adapted. Now played as a single chord, in triplets, and in the upper register, it signifies the circuitous journey of a labyrinth. It reminds the pilgrim of where they have been. The chord does not change but continuously moves in triplets with embellishments symbolizing the pilgrim as whole but transformed.
The piece ends with the familiar glissandos of the four main chords, capturing that the pilgrimage came full circle. However, unlike the beginning of the song, the bass line accompanies the chords to bring wholeness and completion to the entire piece.
Connolly, Daniel K. “At the Center of the World: The Labyrinth Pavement of Chartres Cathedral.” Art and Architecture of Late Medieval Pilgrimage in Northern Europe and The British Isles. Eds. Sarah Blick and Rita Tekippe. (Brill: Leiden, The Netherlands) 2005. Friends of the Labyrinth. “Mazzariello’s Maze.” http://mazzariellolabyrinth.orgfree.com/ “Guidelines for Walking the Labyrinth.” Veriditas. https://www.veriditas.org/New-to-the-Labyrinth.
Ross, Deborah. “Introduction.” Image and Pilgrimage in Christian Culture.
Taylor, Joshua. “Songs for the Journey: The Music of Pilgrimage” (2021). Doctor of Pastoral Music Projects and Theses. https://scholar.smu.edu/theology_music_etds/2
Turner, Victor and Edith Turner. Image and Pilgrimage in Christian Culture. (Columbia University Press: New York) 1978.