Swallowed Up is a commission from the Barlow Endowment for Music Composition, premiered by PULSE Trio. It develops the homonymic properties of the word “swallow.” The work’s overall three-movement form symbolizes: the digestive action, a series of living things, and the Passion story of Jesus Christ.
“Garden of the Innocent Bird” groups together the oral digestive phase, the bird swallow, and Christ’s suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane. The bird swallow is known as the bird of liberty because it dies when captured. Christ wilfully handed Himself over to be killed to liberate those captive in sin. The oral phase of swallowing food softens food and then bites and grinds it into a bolus. Likewise, in the Garden of Olives, Christ suffered to the point that He bled from every pore just as olives are crushed under extreme pressure for their oil.
“Sting” refers to the pharyngeal phase, the sea swallow, and the crucifixion of Christ. This digestive phase prepares for and then catapults the bolus to the stomach. The sea swallow’s sting is lethal. Christ died being nailed to the Cross He carried, after being falsely judged, beat, and betrayed.
“Vincetoxicum hirundae” relates the esophageal phase to the plant swallow-wort and to the Resurrection. The Latin title comes from the swallow-wort’s scientific name, referring to its properties to cure snake poison. The swallow-wort, in Dacian culture, was known to open any locked door. The esophageal phase pushes the bolus into the stomach, where nutrients are absorbed and taken throughout the body. Christ’s Resurrection announces that “mortality might be swallowed up of life” (2 Corinthians 5:4). It allowed Christ power over sin, conquering the devil, the biblical serpent.