At our upcoming concert featuring new Canadian music, we’re thrilled to present the narration premier of John Oliver’s the Raven Steals the Light. The work tells the story of a smart raven bringing the world from chaos into the light. The tale comes from the West Coast Indigenous tradition and will feature Saskatoon actor Carol Greyeyes.
John Oliver about his work:
My composition is a musical setting of the story as told and illustrated by Bill Reid in a book of Native American tales, which he co-wrote with Robert Bringhurst, titled The Raven Steals the Light. The music begins with the ‘inky pitchy blackness fugue’ (the world before light). Raven bumbles around in the dark. Then raven discovers a house with no windows or doors. Inside he hears an old man who says, ‘I have a box and inside the box is another box and inside it are many more boxes, and in the smallest box of all is all the light of the world.’ Raven decide he wants the light , but he can’t find a way into the house, so he goes upstream to make a plan. He decides to transform himself into a hemlock needle to travel downstream until he reaches the place where the old man’s daughter collects water. She will collect water at the moment Raven arrives (as hemlock needle). Then she will drink from the bucket and swallow Raven. Raven will go to her womb. The daughter will go home and Raven will be born inside the house as Raven-boy.
After much stumbling around (in the dark, remember), he will find the box of boxes with light in the smallest one. He will convince the old man to open the boxes, against his will, one by one, until a strange light is cast and then the last box is opened and the old man picks up the ball of light and tosses it like a toy to Raven-boy who, at that instant, transforms himself back into the big black Raven. In the newly found light, the old man barely glimpses his grandson as the boy’s mouth becomes a beak and catches the light and Raven flies up out of the house through the smoke-hole.
As Raven flies into the sky, everything below is lit up, but, as Raven can now see, so can his predator, Eagle. Eagle chases Raven., Raven swerves to avoid Eagle, and in doing so, drops half the light, which breaks on the rocks below into one big piece and thousands of tiny pieces that bounce back into the night sky to become today’s moon and stars. Finally, tired of the chase, Raven drops the last piece of light on the horizon, creating the sun. The eternal Raven escapes the jaws of the Eagle and goes on to find food and new adventures in his newly illuminated world. The composition ends with the transformation of the world by light.