Composer Dylan Tran on “Mass in E”

Note: The Mass in E by Dylan Tran will be performed in PEV’s December 2018 concert.

The bulk of Mass in E was written during the summer of 2016. I was singing with the Franco-American Vocal Academy in Périgueux, a small town in the south of France riddled with Gallo-Roman ruins dating back to the 1st century. It is a town who’s history is seamlessly integrated into its daily life, where a water park is built into the remains of an amphitheater and locals patronize churches 1000 years old. L’Église de la Cité is the oldest church in Périgueux, built in the 11th century. A few friends of mine were kind enough to sing through an early version of the Agnus Dei there. We sang the first note and were immediately surrounded by the warm, permeative reverberations of the church, as if we were gently and deeply submerged into a bath. These echoes contained much more than just the sounds of our own voices. It was as if our music had run along the corners of the walls and slid into the cracks in the ceiling, mingling in an intimacy with this space shared by those from over a thousand years ago, before it returned to us; it seemed to acknowledge and join our voices with the likes of those from its past.

The influence of the living juxtaposition of Périgueux, of the old and the new, can be seen in the musical language of Mass in E; moving fifths and chant like passages evoking antiquity give way to sections of more contemporary harmonies and textures. While the piece contains many of the standard conventions of the mass, it also reflects my personal experiences and ruminations with the church. The opening movement, a ceremonious and solemn Kyrie, leads into a raucous and fanatic Gloria. While the Credo is lyrical and monophonic, it is followed immediately by the frantic Benedictus and Sanctus. The closing Agnus Dei is a solo for Mezzo-Soprano accompanied by a humming chorus. The soloist is both surrounded and isolated from the rest of the choir, concurrently intimate with yet separate from them, while they beg for a response and receive only silence. The soloist’s final plea fades into the humming chorus, simultaneously answered and unanswered.

— Dylan Tran, New Orleans

Dylan Tran is a young composer and singer currently based out of New Orleans. His influences are numerous and ever changing, ranging from Hildegard to Ferneyhough, including dubstep, folk music, rock, opera/theatre, and his own Vietnamese heritage. In his few years of composing, Dylan’s pieces have been workshopped and performed by musicians across the country and in Europe. The 17’-18’ season saw his film score debut as well as the premiere of a wind quintet for the Loyola Ballet Theatre. Dylan triumphed in the Pacific Edge Voices’ 2018 Call-for-Scores, emerging as one of five composers chosen from 300 submissions, and the only composer to have more than one piece selected. His Mass in E, workshopped in Périguex, France by singers from the Franco-American Vocal Academy, will be premiered by PEV in San Francisco in December 2018. His String Quartet No.1 on Vietnamese Themes, composed in fulfillment of a fellowship awarded by the MUSAICA Chamber Ensemble upon winning their 2017 Composition Contest, will be premiered by musicians from the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra in April 2019. You are invited to explore his other music and goings on by visiting his Youtube channel: Dylan Tran – Composer and his Instagram: @dylantranmusic.

Teresa Tauchi