Janus Mask


for orchestra (1998)




15 min.


orchestra (winds in 3s)

Program Notes

Janus, the Roman god of gates and doorways, is portrayed in masks as having two faces, each pointing in the opposite direction. Liars and traitors are sometimes described as being Janus-faced because one is never sure which is the true face. Like the mask, this work is divided into two opposing sections. The first half of the work is an aggressive Allegro in which a series of increasingly powerful climaxes which finally explode and extinguish themselves in a furious culmination. The second half of the work, marked Lento desolato, is an incredibly slow and tortured progression. The work ends with a huge build toward a somewhat triumphant note, indicating a new beginning beyond the next gate.

Justin Merritt Music

Composer Justin Merritt was the youngest-ever winner of the ASCAP Foundation Rudolph Nissim Award. He is also the winner of a host of other awards including the McKnight Fellowship, the Copland Award, and the Polyphonos Prize. His music has been played by the Minnesota Orchestra, Indianapolis Symphony, and on A Prairie Home Companion.

His evening length cantata, The Path, was premiered at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis in April 2018. The work is a setting of a collection of Buddhist Pali scriptures translated by the composer and set for multiple choirs, soloists, and large orchestra.

He received his Bachelors from Trinity University and his Masters and Doctorate from Indiana University. He studied composition with Samuel Adler, Sven-David Sandstrom, Claude Baker, Timothy Kramer, Don Freund, and electronic and computer music with Jeffrey Hass. He is currently Professor and Chair of Music at St. Olaf College. He resides in Northfield, Minnesota with his wife Faye and their children Cullen Fang Ouxiang and Molly Fang Qinghe.

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