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Nox Aurumque

Nox Aurumque (Night and Gold) was written as a sort of ‘companion piece’ to my Lux Aurumque (Light and Gold). I used themes (textual and musical) taken from both Lux Aurumque, and my work for music theater, Paradise Lost: Shadows and Wings.

By my count this is my seventh collaboration with poet Charles Anthony Silvestri (Sleep, Leonardo Dreams of His Flying Machine, etc.) and it was by far our most challenging. Here is a summation of our process together, recalled by the poet himself:

Notes on the Text

by Charles Anthony Silvestri

The task of the lyricist is to provide for the composer a text which, on the one hand, gives the composer the material he or she needs to complete the piece, according to unique specifications; while on the other hand, could stand alone as a poem in its own right.  Writing the Latin text for Nox Aurumque was a singular challenge.

First, Eric had already composed much of the musical material; several distinct melodic motifs were already formed and essential to the structure of the piece.  Any text I composed had to fit within the parameters of that structure.  Eric was very specific about the number of syllables in this line, the necessary word-painting in that line, etc.

Second, Eric had strong ideas about the meaning of the text.  He communicated impressionistic images of an angel, the emotions of that angel, and other evocative images, darker than usual for him.  My text had to speak to those images in a meaningful way, consistent with Eric’s intentions for the piece.  It has a distinctly different sound than earlier works, and I wanted my text to be darker, and as different.

Third (and most challenging), the text had to flow effectively in Latin.  The Latin had to communicate accurately the images Eric wished to evoke about this angel, all within the already-established framework of the piece.  Latin affected the English, and English affected Latin, in a tug of war between meaning and grammar.  It had to be singable, and employ the kind of vowels and consonants Eric likes to set.  (We joked that not every word could end in the lovely and mysterious –um sound Eric likes so much—Latin grammar just doesn’t work that way, although I became intimately familiar with the many uses of the genitive plural!)  And the Latin had to be correct—it had to conform to the rules of Latin grammar—to satisfy my need as a scholar.  I had to settle at times for some Latin that strayed from what Cicero might have written, but which stayed certainly within the somewhat looser realm of Medieval usage.  From my perspective as a poet, the Latin language is living, vibrant and malleable; I’m certainly not the first poet to take liberties with canonical rules.  No doubt there will be quibblers who will question the choices I have made.  I humbly ask these critics to consider the nodus triplex with which I was presented, and see this poem for what it is—lyrics to a choral work, not a sequel to the Aeneid.

Nox Aurumque

Infuscatum et obscurum,
Canens noctis,
Canens mortis,
Acquiescens canendo…

Et angelum somnit aurorarum et bellorum,
Saeculorum aurorum fundit lacrimas,
Lacrimas rerum bellorum.
O arma!
O lamina aurata!
Gestu graves nimium,
Graves nimium volatu.

Infuscatum et torpidum
Dilabere ex armis in alam!
Volemus iterum,
Alte supra murum;
Angeli renascentes et exultantes as alas

Canens alarum,
Canens umbrarum.

Tarnished and dark,
Singing of night,
Singing of death,
Singing itself to sleep.
And an angel dreams of sunrise,
And war.

Tears of the ages.
O shield!
O gilded blade!
You are too heavy to carry,
Too heavy for flight.

Tarnished and weary,
Melt from weapon to wing!
Let us soar again,
High above this wall;
Angels reborn and rejoicing with wings made
Of dawn,
Of gold,
Of dream.

Singing of wings,
Singing of shadows.

Charles Anthony Silvestri, 1965-present


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  • Rachel Blair

    I am part of Byun's Chamber choir at RCC and let me say, This song is so much fun to sing! I love it, love the text and how it ties into paradise lost. Wonderful!

    • Megan Hoyt

      what institution or college is that? "RCC"

      • Mason Allred

        Riverside Community College. Byun is a wonderful director! That, and he has a great sense of humor :)

    • Jean-Michel DESAI

      We enjoy et are very proud to create in France this wonderful piece,
      during 2 concerts 4th et 6th of may around
      grenoble in the Alpes.
      We will sing also LUX…. with the A COEUR JOIE ensemble directed by Francine Bessac
      with other pieces of M. Lauridsen, Colin Mawby, Martinon

  • Michael Caines

    Love your little motivic nod to 'What If'!! :)

  • LaJun

    I attended the performance Sunday, May 2, 2010, Murrieta, Cali, and this song was so well delivered. It was full of expression and truly, RCC Chamber Choir has reached their level of expertise. We love you!!!

  • Rachel

    omgosh… you sneeky sneeky genius! When we got this peice, I had already heard it. And I was so sad that the fun jump in the soprano part after the big climax– its like 4:43 on the video about– was gone from the music! But I just listened to our recording of it and it is an overtone! Like I said… Sneeky sneeky genius! I love it. =)

  • James Curtis

    A beautiful successor to Lux. Keep the music flowing for us please! :)

    • Charles Anthony Silv

      We're working on the third piece in the series, VOX AURUMQUE!

      • Connor

        Oh! I can't wait for that then! :)

  • Elise Ontiveros

    I can never get enough of this peice. It is just so deep. I just wish my friends had the same aptitude for music like I do. If they would just take the time to listen, they would "see." and they would see how beautiful it is. I wish i could have heard this live. Im thankful that I came across it :)

  • James Conces

    I really hope to see a Wind/Orchestral arrangement of Nox to accompany Lux!

  • mauro marchetti

    we made Europe Premiere in Italy!!!!

  • David Guillot

    Eric, I just discovered your work yesterday. I've spent most of the past 8 hours exploring your domain of music, and I haven't even touched the tip of the iceberg yet. All of your pieces are beyond phenomenal, but "Nox Aurumque" especially just…moves me. So deeply. You are a master in your own domain, and the finest practitioner of choral dissonance I've ever encountered. I will love this piece without end, and I will continue to investigate the intricacies of your prolific career. With great anticipation I look forward to owning your "Light and Gold" album. My hat goes off to you, and it may stay off because I don't think I'll ever cease to be impressed by your genius.

  • Tiffany Sams

    Oh my gosh! I just read through the lyrics while listening to this and the combination actually made me cry it was so beautiful. I've performed several Whitacre pieces and this definitely has become one of my favorites. Brilliant job with those lyrics!

  • Jordyn Bush

    The first time I experienced Nox Aurumque was this afternoon. I use the word "experienced" because any other would be inaccurate. I am literally moved to tears by each phrase. I hope to someday be presented with a chance to meet you at some point. This music challenged my heart.



    <333 Peace and Love


  • Angelina Howells

    If I could have anything in the world, it would be to sing in a choir for you. Nothing I listen to compares to the works you have created. I would especially LOVE to sing this song. I could only hope for now!

  • Connor Chambers

    I have begged my music teacher to let us sing this for months! It's soo good!! People call me weird for liking it so much because I'm only 12!!

    • Eric

      Connor, you may be the coolest 12 year-old I know.

      • Connor Chambers

        Thanks Eric :)

  • Curtis Azecurl

    Mr. Whitacre, and Mr. Silvestri, I recently won an essay contest about your music. I want to say that out of all your pieces, Nox really speaks to me. I don't know how you guys did it, but Mr. Whitacre's music and Mr. Silvestri's lyrics paint such a perfect picture of darkness. From the very first aurum at the beginning, you both have me hooked and I can already see an absolutely dark night in front of me, and I just want to go into that darkness of dissonance and get lost. I love what you guys do, keep it up. Mr. Whitacre, if you ever do make a wind ensemble arrangement, the symphonic band at San Ramon, CA would love to be one of the lucky ones to premiere it. Love you both, hope more like this come my way.

    • Eric

      Thanks so much, Curtis, and CONGRATULATIONS!

  • Schnack Manduu

    I have heard the sweetest music during funerals. Melody is exquisite while sound is blocked out underwater. In the glorious strains of exuberant stillness before a storm there is an unrivaled beauty. To find music that is pure and true, you must find its corresponding silence. Eric, you will never quite be able to write music rivaling Silence in her supreme beauty, but I believe you’ve come as close as describing her as any, if not more. By all means, keep trying. I hope you prove me wrong.

  • Sarah

    I love this. It’s so beautiful and luscious and full, but at the same time its so dark and sinister. I absolutely love it. We recently did this at my school and it was an amazing experience, along with The Seal Lullaby and Lux Aurumque. We love your music, Mr. Whitacre, and please keep it up!

  • Jon Shrum

    Aside from the fact that this song (like all of your works) is incredibly mysterious, complex, and stunningly gorgeous my brother and I loved the beastly A-flat you give the tenors. Very rarely do we get to really belt high notes like that so thank you very much for that moment of tenor epicness =) God bless and never stop writing your music. You have no idea how much your music touches and moves so many people everyday.

  • Austin Deane

    I absolutely love this piece! A while back, just before Christmas, two high schools, an east end high school, and my own, a west end high school, sang at a big thing called the Knights of Columbus Festival, which does on every year. We have a very nice rivalry going on between our 2 high schools, mainly because of our choir teachers. At this festival, our east side rivals sang Lux Aurumque. They didn’t sing it very well, and what we sang was Lully Lulla Lullay. We did it wonderfully. What we are singing next, in retaliation for them pulling out an amazing Eric Whitacre song done not so well, is Sleep. Once I found out about this song online, I thought “how wicked awesome, and suitable would it be to totally destroy them/wipe the floor with them by singing Lux Aurumque’s sister song, Nox Aurumque . . . ” I really loved this piece. It is both dark and harsh (in a good way), and beautiful, rich and warm, all in one. I myself am teaching myself composition, and so this piece is very inspiring for my next composition . . . . I will just have too decide, brass band or high school band, minor or major, flat or sharp, and movements or no movements . . .

  • Patrick Culbertson

    I don’t know if you will ever see this comment, but if you ever do:

    I am a ‘musician.’ Well, I play music and all, but it wasn’t until I found your TED Talk interview about the Virtual Choir 2.0 that I realized what music really can mean.

    The way you use dissonance, the words you choose to ring – it was like the reaction you had when you heard choral music for the first time. I had never experienced anything like it, and ‘Sleep’ reduced me to tears.

    Your music has taken my life and spun it into a huge 180. I see music in so many different ways now, and I’ve been inspired to sing – something that I’ve never liked to do, but ever since I started, I’ve come to enjoy it more each day. I’m not that great at it, but I love it.

    It probably sounds like I’m groveling right now, but it’s fine by me. I know that you’ve made a huge impact on me as a ‘musician,’ and I thank you for that from the bottom of my heart.

    By the way, singing in Virtual Choir 3 was a tremendous honor, and I can’t wait for 4!

    Wishing you all the best,


    • Eric

      Patrick, I can’t tell you how much this means to me. Thank you so much for your gracious and eloquent note.


      P.S. I don’t song that well either, but I sure do love it!

  • Kris

    This is by far one of the most beautiful pieces I’ve heard in my life. Actually it is the most beautiful piece I’ve heard in my life. The soprano 1 part makes it happen. I got to sing Lux and Leonardo in my High school choir last year. I will be begging my choral director to order Nox when school starts.

  • Johnathon

    I don’t know if you will ever read a comment this late in time. However, if you do happen to read this, i just wanted to say thank you soooooo much.

    I am 14, in the top choir of my Highschool, as a freshman none the less. We just sang Lux Aurumque and it was overall my favorite out of all of our pieces. I then had to look you up. Not realizing who you really were, i had looked a long time ago at your virtual choir and loved it.

    I decided to look at your other music. This song, Nox Aurumque is absolutely the most beautiful song i have ever heard and I’d love to get the sheet music to this so I could beg my director Mr/ Evans to let us sing this masterpiece. I would absolutely love to sing the Base II part my voice is the lowest other than a senior. I believe this song will test me (one of those “make me or brake me” kind of deals) Thank you.

    I am so ever greatful for your music. it is astonishing to see how real music can be interpreted.

  • sobrone

    I want to comment to Charles Silvestri, as well as Eric. I have listened to this song many times since buying the cd’s and just tonite came back to Eric’s website to re-read some of the texts. The work you two have done together is magnificent. I read the text tonite before reading you comments and part of the way through I felt it had a similar tone to Tennyson’s Ullyses. That may seem a stretch but the feelings of the aging Ullyses reflect some of the emotion of this poem. This poem in less words but similar emotions. I have already gone over the text you did in Latin and my three years of Latin in high school are so far removed that I can’t imagine anyone other than a pundit or scholar criticizing. The words are there, pure and true, their meaning shining through. Perhaps the reason that I felt this when I again read the poem was remembering that the first time I heard one of Eric’s works sung was by the men’s and women’s chorus at university where my daughter attends. “A Boy and a Girl” was something that just caused an eruption of emotion in my spirit. Not a few minutes later my daughter’s women’s chorus sang “Untravelled Worlds”, which is an inspiring rendition in itself. “Ullyses” has been a favorite poem of mine for 40 years, now becoming elderly, for different reasons that in my youth. When the poet says, “Come, my friends, ’tis not too late to seek a newer world.” He is echoing the same sentiment as the poet who wrote, “Gold, tarnished and weary, Awaken! Melt from weapon to wing, let us soar again.” You and Eric allow this elder spirit to soar again. Thank you so much!

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