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Reflections on NEFERTARI

Updated: Jun 27

from the Preface and Introduction to NEFERTARI

Paul Sánchez

Now the journey is done. The four-and-a-half-year adventure is coming to a close.

As at the end of our voyage when we look back at the stars and they have taken on new significance, I reflect on this whole experience and find new meaning. The idea of Nefertari’s tomb being transmuted into music now seems fitting to me in ways that were not apparent when we began. If her House of Eternity is a liminal zone between worlds, if it is a bridge between the physical and the spiritual, then perhaps music is in fact a natural atmosphere for such an entity; is music not exactly such a liminal space, and does it not have the power to bridge worlds?

Nefertari’s tomb became for me simultaneously reality and metaphor, the subject of my conscious exploration and the realm of my dreams. While the planning, the preparation, and much of the writing-the-notes work were very much acts of effortful, intellectual, conscious creative endeavor, there are swaths of music which I don’t remember composing. For those parts of the score, I remember being there at the piano, feeling the leather of the bench underneath me, seeing my hand move the pencil, the feel of the paper under my fingers, but nothing else. And much of the work was a great struggle, with the coalescing musical ideas haunting me, and sleep eluding me. A few areas took shape through multiple revisions; Nefertari’s meeting with Atum at the end of the solar cycle, in particular, evaded me, and its final revision - including a complete rewriting of ten pages - was made in September of 2022.

In truth, Nefertari’s tomb was a place I feared to explore: the unknown filled the void, and my only certainty was that there I would face death, lurking somewhere in the darkness; what is a world without my father, and how could I face that? Nefertari’s journey became my own: her motive was the first musical idea I composed; Osiris’s motive and Re’s motive came next; and then the star music of the opening. I knew that the journey would lead us back to these stars: to life, to paradise, light, and hope, to a new understanding, and to rebirth. But how?

With the promise of that fixed constellation by which to navigate, the light of those very stars was my only illumination as I began the descent through the corridor into the underworld. The monsters guarding the Gates and the Portals threatened to devour me. I embraced Nefertari’s fear, felt her terror, and felt her strength. Throughout the rest of the voyage, her fear was my fear; her sadness my own; her hope was my hope; her peace became my peace; her joy, my joy. Her nobility inspired me, and through the long road of her journey, I wanted to breathe the same air she breathed, face death and despair with her, and, in the end, rejoice in her transcendence at her side, finding the light, reaching for the heavens, being reborn from the darkness of the tomb into new hope, new perspective, new horizons, with the light of our guiding stars shining in our hearts.

And if I look back, here from the end of this voyage, will I be better able to parse out an understanding of my underlying motivation for taking this road in the first place? Why did I make this attempt at alchemical transformation? And what did I learn, ultimately?

Perhaps the answers lie in my sense that Nefertari’s spirit lives on in her House of Eternity, and that the spirits of those who built her House of Eternity - the brilliant makers of her tomb - live on with her in its architecture and artwork. She lives on in the hearts of those who experience the magic of her tomb, inspired by her presence, her essence, a nobility that so beautifully represents the imago Dei, to radiantly illumine for us the transcendent possibility innate in each of us. And so perhaps my hope in creating NEFERTARI with my father was that there, in the remade House of Eternity, our spirits would live on along with Nefertari and those who made her tomb.

My hope now is that through the music, listeners might be lifted up by Nefertari’s transcendent spirit; that they might experience the House of Eternity’s power to bridge the physical and the spiritual, and in that cosmic space sense intimations of the connectedness of all of humanity over eons. And in that liminal zone, perhaps those who hear NEFERTARI might remember their loved ones who have gone on before, realizing that like Nefertari - who was there shining “among the eternal stars” all along, her leitmotif itself the conjunction of her own guiding constellations - those loved ones live in our hearts, as our guiding stars. And that is what Nefertari taught me: there is no world without my father, for he lives in my heart, a cynosure.

How will we illumine the hearts of those who follow?

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