The title of They Have Pulled Down Heaven is taken from the title of a chapter in C. S. Lewis’s book That Hideous Strength—part of his lesser-known “space trilogy” which tells the story of people interacting with “angels,” or trans-dimensional creatures capable of interplanetary travel through deep space. The full title of the chapter is “They Have Pulled Down Deep Heaven on Their Heads,” and is a reference to the moral corruption of the antagonists of the story, having incited the wrath of the ostensible “God” (in this case a powerful space alien).
The music is not intended to be programmatic or evocative of Lewis’s text, but is rather meant to be a vague commentary on the nature of human interaction with outer space, and with notions or conceptions of the divine. The work is partially aleatoric, meaning that events within the music are not pre-determined. The overall form is textural, inspired by György Ligeti’s Atmosphères, and evocative of “heavenly” realms of homogeneous light, air, and space. The work begins with chaotic, amorphous sounds, and undergoes a series of cataclysmic “events,” ultimately leading to a static and peaceful plateau at the conclusion. Interspersed throughout are utterances of the Lutheran chorale, Vom Himmel hoch da komm’ ich her (From Heaven Above to Earth I Come).