This musical venture is “free jazz,” meaning there are virtually no rules. In free jazz, musicians take many liberties concerning harmony and tempo in the improvisation. Within this realm of music, the concept of “At its Rising” is to portray the setting of the Christmas star in an impressionistic way. Even though the improvisation lacks a specific form it does have two main sections. The beginning section represents the gift and sacrifice from God to the earth, as the latter portion depicts the newborn star as it gleams in the world.
The piece begins with the sounds of Earth. At 0:53, a descending melodic motion indicates God’s gift of presence from above; incarnation in the form of a baby. This passage includes all twelve tones of the tonal system, representing the universality of the gift. The absence of time (tempo) indicates the eternal qualities of this gift, and its Giver. From 1:29-45, a low note grounds the presence firmly in our world. Then, a star begins to glimmer; the ascending pattern of notes is coming-into-being, familiar in an unexpectedly new way. Time starts in the latter section (2:34) as a tempo/beat is set and the star finds its place in the world. The constant presence of the low note symbolizes the simplicity of the gift, as the harmonic content and shifts over it are used to describe the star shining, and the images of the Christmas story it shines its light on.