Konx-Om-Pax is also one of Scelsi's most effective compositions, using relatively simple material projected on a broad canvas. It is scored for large orchestra (including full strings, and lacking only flutes) along with organ, and in the final movement a mixed chorus. It was premiered on February 6th, 1986 by the Hessian Radio Orchestra in Frankfurt and conducted by Jürg Wyttenbach. The title of the piece is three words meaning 'peace,' in ancient Assyrian, Sanskrit and Latin. It is subtitled: "Three aspects of Sound: as the first motion of the immovable, as creative force, as the sacred syllable 'Om.'" Konx-Om-Pax is especially effective at creating a feeling of peace, and as such is a particularly useful piece for coping with the modern world.
The first movement is based entirely on C, first treated as in inner pedal, and fans out harmonically at first symmetrically and then asymmetrically with the addition of quarter tones, rising to a great climax completely elaborating the underlying C. This movement is a gradual gathering of harmonic forces, with great calming effect. The short second movement begins on F, slowly builds until unleashing a great explosion of power in the form of rapid chromatic scales engulfing everything in their path, and ends again on F. The third movement is on A (and recall that the movement from C to A was the basic feature of Quartet No. 4 (1964)) and marks the entrance of the chorus, chanting only the syllable Om, and supported by the orchestra. This movement gives the impression (however absurd it may seem) of process-music or even a fugue on the single note theme, 'Om.' This is accomplished by a tight interior chromaticism with microtonal variations, a careful consideration of length of utterance and inflection, and by the building of a countersubject out of harmonic resonances. The entries of 'Om' continue steadily throughout the slowly-paced movement. The movement is in three sections: the first builds slowly, sticking almost entirely to 'Om' with single note responses; the second is an extended episode dominated by the orchestra, with percussive punctuation, in which harmonic associations are worked out in more detail; and the third re- introduces the chorus on 'Om' along with the longer countersubject developed in the previous episode, slowly fading away in a profound ending to this majestic work.
In many ways, Konx-Om-Pax is Scelsi's most perfect creation: it attests to his supreme power of harmony, and above all it is always effective. For many of Scelsi's works, it is necessary to have the proper frame of mind in order to approach, but here that frame of mind is established within the twenty-minute work itself. Hence other pieces can be ineffective at times, but with Konx-Om-Pax this is never the case.
Edited from materials originally posted to the Internet in 1992 by Todd McComb
Copyright © 1992-2000, Todd Michel McComb.