Morten Lauridsen - Lux Aeterna – Introitus

Vectoral Analysis by Diego Barbosa-Vásquez

Morten Lauridsen - Lux Aeterna – Introitus

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Historical Background

This work, composed in 1997 to the LA Master Chorale, is part of the rise of choral music in this currently modern era. The composer creates a flexible work that can be performed with a small orchestra and small choir. Due to this flexibility, the piece has been done by a wide range of music organizations given to the piece a huge recognition with professional and student ensembles. In addition, despite the fact of the previous chromatic tradition as composer, in this work Lauridsen uses the post-modernism style creating a piece with tonal and classical structure approaches. Furthermore, Copland influences can be seen in the open sounds to cover the dissonances and the classical structure of the piece.

Overview, Structure, and Texture

This choral work is based in the Latin text of Requiem - Introitus. Here, the composer returned to the classical approach to the musical setting of the text. Words meaning defined the mood of horizontal and vertical movements while the structure of the text defined the structure of the music. In addition, the heterophonic structure is the mainly texture in this movement. Is important to highlight that the choir, despite the fact of the heterophonic setting in the whole group, maintains quasi-homophonic movements in all its voice’s relations.

Orchestration Techniques

Part of the successful reception of the piece is its flexible orchestration. The piece was created originally to winds in 1, 2 horns, 1 trombone, strings and choir with the indication of less strings and choir members if is necessary. In terms of the orchestration treatment of the choir is almost always used in homophonic movements. This treatment is used to create a clear SATB structure in each vertical approach to the piece. On the other hand, the orchestra keeps the heterophonic movement to the piece giving gestures based in an arpeggiation of the vertical organization. In terms of the winds are used less than the strings and almost always duplicating strings and voices. Furthermore, the relation between orchestra and choir is antiphonal in the requiem text, while at the others parts of the text maintains a colla voce relation.

Basic Techniques

The composer uses three mainly basic techniques. First, the text painting placed in the whole work, a technique than can be linked to the Renaissance and now with the post-modernism styles. This technique creates the moods and structure of the piece recreating the meaning of the requiem Latin text. In addition, 2 techniques than can be linked to the USA style of the 1940s 50s with Copland are used by Lauridsen. The classical tonal approach to the piece that defines the vertical and horizontal movements, the second basic technique. And third, the open organization of the chords used to cover the dissonances. For instance, the second in the chords that is used continuously in this work.

Vertical Models

The vertical approach is based in the classical tonalism organization of pitches. 3ths, 5ths, octaves and sixths are the primordial sounds and the dissonances are avoided. However, a second is placed in the common chords, but with a space between the triad and the second in order to cover the dissonance. This sound can be linked to the Copland organization of pitches used before 1950.

Horizontal Models

The horizontal approach is based in the classical tonal organization of the piece. Many horizontal gestures are based in arpegiations of chords and step notes to the next chord. On the other hand, in addition to those movements the composer incorporates very huge leaps to cover the dissonances. Bar 67 is a good example where the seconds are covered by those leaps and then compensated with a clear influence of the tonal chords structure of the piece.


The post-modernism style is clearly seen in this work. In addition, the work can be seen as the continuation of the USA style of composition that Copland was creating before his serialism compositions. The use of tonality, classical structures, text painting and open sounds to cover the dissonances are good examples of this compositional line.

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