Three Hallucinations for Orchestra is based upon music written for Ken Russell’s film Altered States. The three pieces - Sacrifice, Hymn, Ritual – are interconnected in this score, as well as interrelated motivically and melodically. In the film, Mr. Russell devised several extended religious hallucinations, and the outer two movements of this work (Sacrifice and Ritual) are taken directly from the original film-score.
Sacrifice depicts the pagan slaying of a seven-eyed goat, superimposed against other images of death (primarily the death of the hero’s father) and sensuality. The movement begins, however, with a slow introduction setting up a trance-like state. This is interrupted by the bleating sound of oboes playing in a highly primitive manner. The motto thus introduced – an ornamented and repeated single note (C) - figures not only in the development of this movement, but as the motivic “theme” of the final movement’s dance.
Other ingredients combine with the oboe motive – specifically, an interval relationship (the tritone or flatted-fifth) ad a melodic fragment (of the hymn Rock of Ages). A final superimposition of all these ingredients culminates in a gigantic orchestral glissando which ends the movement.
The second movement, Hymn, develops and extends the previously heard fragment of Rock of Ages, fading in and out of a realistic version of the music into more hallucinatory visions. Blurred visions of choral “Amens” (plagal cadences) float like clouds around this music.
The last movement, Ritual, interrupts a series of these cadences with frenzied energy, and the momentum leads to a savage ritual dance (in the film, the Hinchi Indians’ mushroom rite). The full-orchestral forces are augmented here by two sets of four timpani each and also by an expanded percussion section, and the work ends in a burst of cumulative energy.