Devil's Tale, The

From Wind Repertory Project
James Stephenson

James Stephenson

Subtitle: A Sequel to Stravinsky's L'Histoire du Soldat

General Info

Year: 2013
Duration: c. 45:00 (with narration; 34:00 without narration)
Difficulty: V (see Ratings for explanation)
Publisher: Stephenson Music, Inc.
Cost: Score and Parts (print) - $350.00   |   Score Only (print) - $70.00


Thirty-four movements, or may be done as a suite (like the Stravinsky)


Full Score
B-flat Soprano Clarinet
B-flat Trumpet
String Bass

Dancers and Actors (optional)


None discovered thus far.

Program Notes

My version of this familiar story of Joseph, the devil, et al, is called The Devilʼs Tale. Its inspiration comes from basically telling Ramuzʼ story backwards, in effect, as one giant palindrome.

This all began with imagining starting my story where Stravinskyʼs leaves off, with the somewhat ambiguous drum solo. (it is sometimes played with a crescendo, sometimes with a diminuendo). It was this ambiguity which led me to realize that it could almost be the beginning to a piece as well.

I have had many dreams myself where I am convinced that I hear the stroke of a drum, and am startled and awakened – only to realize, of course, that it was just a dream. That was the impetus for the starting-off point for my story – that the solo drum is all part of one giant dream. In fact, to take it a step further, that the whole Soldierʼs Tale (it is a tale, after all) was just one giant dream of a present day Joseph, who is in actuality situated in Las Vegas, as a pit musician for a show. Once I knew that I would start with the percussion solo, and that it was a giant palindrome, I knew I needed to end with walking “down a hot and dusty road”. The task at hand was then to just fill in all of the blanks…

A few things I knew:

1) I didnʼt want this to be about the violin. That has been done, masterfully, by Stravinsky, and frankly, if this is to be done as a sequel, and in the same concert as the Stravinsky, I think the violinist needs a break. Therefore, all musicians get featured at one point or another, and generally speaking, the low instruments represent the devil, and the upper, Joseph/Hannah, or “goodness”.

2) I wanted it to be more relevant, more obviously universal, and so the general theme is more about love and love-lost. Ramuz's story never gripped me entirely, so I wanted to create something more easily grasped.

3) I wanted to create more of a part for the female character – in my case, Hannah, Joeʼs girlfriend. This leaves more opportunity for dance, which I think could be quite compelling.

4) I wasnʼt sure whether to make mine just prose, or in a rhyming scheme. My final decision was to rhyme it, but leave the rhythm rather loose, leaving it open for interpretation by the narrator or actors. I think this is somewhat similar to my interpretation of Ramuz, or at least the translation thereof that I know.

Once I came up with the palindrome idea, I searched for some existing palindromes. I immediately found that many of them include the word devil, which suited my purposes. Beyond that, I found those that were inspirational, and used the ones that suited my story, and could both fit the narrative and the music simultaneously.

The story is then filled with palindromic words and phrases. There are also many symbolic references to the devil – by using terms that have come to be known over the years.

This work received its premiere performance in 2013 by the Western Illinois University faculty chamber ensemble, conducted by Mike Fansler.

- Program Note by composer


Commercial Discography


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