David Philip Hefti [1975 *]

SATOR Cycle


The following five compositions are united in the SATOR Cycle:

1. SATOR - Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra (2002)
2. AREPO - Concerto for Violin and Orchestra (2004/05)
3. TENET - 4 Songs for Soprano and Ensemble (2003)
4. OPERA - Concerto for Piano and String Orchestra
5. ROTAS - Concerto for Oboe and Orchestra (2009)

The five compositions are united by the use of common musical material, which is derived from the SATOR-square, and which serves as the basic cell for each work, from which all musical parameters and formal structures are developed.

The S A T O R - Square

S
A
T
O
R
A
R
E
P
O
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N
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S

This letter square consists of 5 words, which can be read forward and backwards and result in this special case in a different meaning (palindromes). This composition of words written in the Latin language is more than 1.500 years old and can be translated as follows:

Arepo (name) the sow man (sator) holds (tenet) the cart (rotas, the wheels) with effort.

As this translation hardly results in a satisfying sense, scholars speculated many centuries and still have not found an accurate interpretation. Only a free translation could make more sense.

The Creator (sator) hiddenly (arepo, repere = creep; a-repo: from the 'crept-away') steers (tenet) the wheels (rotas) of the world (opera = his work).

More freely: Out of the hidden, the Creator keeps the world going.

This square is already very old and existed for centuries in German, Latin, Greek and Coptic spellings. It appeared first in the 4. and 5. century in Asia Minor on charms of bronze. Since the 8. century it is found in Latin manuscripts of German monasteries, later it was also cut in stone or carved in wood at church and secular buildings. In the late Middle Ages, the square, which had been spread throughout whole Europe so far, moved ahead to America.

For many centuries it had been considered to be a charming symbol against plague, hunger, fire and demons. It could be found on notes and tools, carved in doors and portals, written in books, cut in bread. Still in the 18. century so-called satorplates (plates, which carry the symbol) had been used as fire extinguishers in Saxony. By throwing them into the fire, it would be able to avoid the danger - so people hoped.

For a long time one tries also to find out the more profound meaning of each letter. Then it may be assumed for sure that there has to be any sense to it. Primarily, it is not the order of the five words but the strange arrangement of the letters which fascinates the scientists.

In 1926, Felix Grosser published an interpretation, which applies as the most probable solution of the problem until today. Grosser connected the letters in a certain symmetrical way and could read the following sequence of words: PATER NOSTER A O, PATER NOSTER A O. (A and O stand thereby for alpha and omega, for the beginning and the end of the Greek alphabet or for 'from the beginnig to the end of time').

Therefore the Sator-square would have to be considered an early Christian cryptic sign, which the Christians of the archaic church used as a secret symbol for identification purposes. Who could read it, was regarded as consecrated and trustworthy.

P
A
A
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