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Albert Glinsky

Throne of the Third Heaven

Commissioned through funds from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts for the 75th Anniversary of the Erie Philharmonic. World Premiere: November 11, 1989. Erie Philharmonic, conducted by Walter Hendl.

Albert Glinsky's Throne of the Third Heaven takes its name from a monumental piece of sculpture in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations Millenium General Assembly is an extraordinary and celebrated work of folk art. Created by James Hampton (1909-1964), an African American janitor who was employed by the General Services Administration, it is a huge (14' x 27') glittering throne and altar made up of 180 separate objects designed for the second coming of Christ.

Inspired by visions, Hampton rented an unheated, poorly lit garage in Washington D.C. where he constructed his Throne over a period of 15 years. After his janitorial duties were finished at midnight, Hampton returned to the garage to work six or seven hours each night on his creation. Fashioned entirely from found objects (bits of gold and aluminum foil, old furniture, light bulbs, and materials scavenged from government wastebaskets), the work is imbued with religious mysticism reflected in a singular symmetrical design: objects to the right of Christ's Central throne chair represent the Old Testament, Moses, and the Commandments; objects to the left, the New Testament, Jesus, and Grace.

Glinsky's Throne of the Third Heaven pays tribute to Hampton's work, taking its cue from the design of the sculpture. The work unfolds in a bilateral symmetry: each event from the first half of the piece (B.C.) is reflected and, in some cases, transformed, in the second half of the work (A.D.) The 14 continuous sections also trace the progress of the sculpture, from its tentative beginnings to its radiant conclusion. The recurrent appearances of Hampton's visions are reflected in the "vision theme," heard shortly after the opening bars, returning in various guises throughout the piece.

The audio excerpt of Throne of the Third Heaven on this site includes the final sections of the work: "Hampton races against his final illness to complete the Throne," "Apocalypse," "seven trumpets," "Hampton's death; Appearance of Jesus Christ (second coming); judgment," "Advent of the Millennium-Glory. 'I am the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.'"


Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations Millennium General Assembly, by James Hampton
Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American Art

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