In my youth, I was enthralled with the stories from Greek and Roman mythology along the broader genre of fantasy. I read these stories voraciously, but also fell in love with many movies of the time, such as Jason and the Argonauts, Clash of the Titans, Conan the Barbarian, the Beastmaster, and Excalibur. These films have a sense of the epic, where the primal battles between heroes and villains are shaped by fate, destiny, and the whim of the Gods.
This work is an unapologetic tribute to these stories and films that gave me such a sense of wonder in my childhood. The piece centers on a fictional account of a great and savage army marching on the city of Delphi. However, when all seems lost, the influences of the divine are felt when the Oracle Pythia asks for the intervention of Apollo.
This attack on Delphi is paralleled in the musical language of the work. In 1725, Johann Joseph Fux wrote a treatise on music composition and counterpoint that he named Gradus ad Parnassum that can be translated as "Ascent to Mount Parnassus", which lies just outside of Delphi. Fux's work set the basis of much of the tonal foundation used by composers such as Bach, Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven. As the piece progresses, the music itself stages an assault on this tonal foundation of Parnassus with a barrage of complex chords and non-functional harmonies.
In the tumultuous political and social climate of 2016 and 2017, there appears to be an abundance of issues to divide us all: race, gender, religious beliefs, political leanings, level of education, and financial status.
We are fed non-stop news and media of verbal and even physical hostilities between groups of people with differing beliefs and agendas. It is all too easy to divide our society into factions of "us" and "them." We shy away from opinions that differ from ours, and focus on those that support what we already believe.
We all need to remember that the vast majority of people in the world are fundamentally good. They may have a different lifestyle, culture, opinions, or set of beliefs that yours, but they are simply doing what they believe to be best for their families and communities. Striving to understand and respect these differences is exactly what makes us strong.
This piece attempts to express this message within the music. The various families of instruments start out in harmony with each other.
However, they diverge into different tonalities that are in opposition. The first instinct is for each group to declare, "We are right!" and insist on not negotiating. However, the two sides eventually come to terms to find a common language, becoming stronger together than they ever had been. May we all be able to do the same.
This piece was comissioned by the Middle School Outreach Ensemble (MSOE) through Colorado State University and was performed by this wonderful group of students in winter 2017.