Subtitle: Amidst the Moving Spheres
1. From the outside... - c. 5:42
2. ...looking in - c. 7:13
3. Outcast - c. 11:45
4. Amidst the Moving Spheres - c. 10:29
English Horn (doubling Oboe I)
B-flat Soprano Clarinet I-II
B-flat Bass Clarinet
B-flat Contrabass Clarinet (optional)
E-flat Alto Saxophone I-II
B-flat Tenor Saxophone I-II
E-flat Baritone Saxophone
B-flat Trumpet I-II-III
Horn in F I-II-III-IV
Percussion I-II-III, including:
- Bass Drum
- Crash Cymbals
- Snare Drum
Sweet melody amidst the moving spheres
Breaks forth, a solemn and entrancing sound,
A harmony whereof the earth's green hills
Give but the faintest echo; yet is there
A music everywhere, and concert sweet!
- Music, Bessie Rayner Parkes
Symphony No. 1 in D♭ Major Amidst the Moving Spheres was inspired by my childhood love of astronomy, and some serious questions that arose out of it as I grew older:
What if extraterrestrial life has already found Earth?
What if they saw the self-destructive tendencies of humanity and decided that they would be better off leaving us alone?
What if that is the reason why when the people of Earth call out into space, nobody answers?
While Symphony No. 1 in D♭, Major Amidst the Moving Spheres brings up as many questions as it answers, it is a symphonic reflection of an outside observer’s look at Earth, and humanity itself.
The symphony opens with From the outside... as an outside observer happens upon Earth, seeing its natural beauties. Leading on a drone in the bass drum, contrabassoon, double bass, and timpani, the ensemble builds from the bottom up. In the form of a short horn chorale, we are introduced to "Explorer," the main theme of the symphony. As the ensemble is about to peak, the brass fades away, leaving an energetic woodwind choir to guide us along as the outside observer gets a closer look at Earth: nature, the flora and fauna, and majestic civilizations, the last of which heralded with muted brass. As the observer continues to explore the planet, a duet emerges between the English horn and bassoon, symbolizing the perceived serenity of the planet, and the double bass, timpani, and vibraphone make one last call to close the first part of the observer’s journey.
As ...looking in begins, the observer starts to get a closer look at humanity, signaled by a series of low B-flats in the contrabassoon, baritone saxophone, horns, low brass, double bass, and timpani, followed by a duet between the horn and euphonium. As the observer looks closer, they begin to see the destructive nature of humanity: the theme "Humanity", war heralded by a trumpet fanfare, ravages civilizations the world over, much to the observer’s dismay. The observer goes to an empty forest to clear their mind, but is still plagued with the imagery of what they just saw, as shown in the piccolo, flutes, oboes, bassoons, and timpani. As the war crashes into the forest where the observer is hiding, as marked with the return of the trumpet fanfare, the observer flees back into space, far, far away from the destruction that was witnessed. As the observer contemplates what to do, the woodwinds reemerge, along with double bass and a solo vibraphone. As the woodwinds and double bass fade away, the solo vibraphone, playing the theme from "Wondrous Creation," shows the observer as they make the final decision not to come back to Earth, signaled by three final notes in the woodwinds and vibraphone, with the vibraphone alone signaling the end.
The point of view changes to Earth as Outcast opens with a racing xylophone and the clarinets and saxophones piling down as the next space race commences, punctuated by the contrabassoon, double bass, and timpani. The goal: establish contact with extraterrestrial life. The English horn and bassoons come in as Earth’s first calls out into space, rhythmically stating "Hello" in Morse code. Clarinets and alto saxophones trade short solos as the people of Earth scramble to find any sign of a message back. As chords swell and the ensemble grows, in comes the snare drum on a broken record of “Hello hello hello hello...” as the frustration grows. Massive stabs in the winds as the frustration and anger hit a peak, as the snare in more Morse code exclaims “Hello? Hello? Hello? Is anyone there? Fine then...so be it” as a strike from the bass drum and tam-tam show the anger boiling over. A vibraphone ostinato begins, creating a halftime feel as anger and frustration are replaced with dread, with small interjections from the timpani and marimba. As the contrabassoon and double bass add in, an English horn solo begins. As frustration and anger have become dread, dread has become grief as the woodwinds swell in organ-like chords and the trumpets and trombones make a fading echo. The clarinet and alto saxophone each get one final solo as the winds drop out, leaving only the double bass, timpani, vibraphone, and marimba as humanity resigns itself to its fate of being isolated from the rest of the universe as we know it.
Three strikes of the bass drum and a war call on the horn signal the beginning of Amidst the Moving Spheres. As voices add in within a chromatic build, a rhythmic stir and pullback from the tuba, double bass, timpani, marimba, bass drum, and tam-tam send us into the first iteration of "Explorer" in its completed form. Three trumpet calls signal the return of "Humanity" to decide how to handle the lack of response from space. A racing entrance in the vibraphone and marimba leads us on as humanity’s fanfare is spread across the ensemble. Chords swell underneath, leading to one last-ditch effort as humanity presses onwards with its call out with the second iteration of "Explorer," this time with all four horns playing the theme and the countermelody being passed to the piccolo, flutes, oboes, and clarinets. Chords blast across the ensemble as trombones herald that the end of our journey is near and humanity has made our decision. One last time, we hear "Explorer" 'in its full glory, with every wind instrument playing the theme in full as the marimba continues to race underneath. The ensemble soars with wide open D-flat major chords as some people still resist our fate with the contrabassoons, trombones, double bass, timpani, and marimba blasting Gs underneath with less and less resistance, as humanity accepts its fate and the low voices join the rest of the ensemble on a D-flat. We are not alone in this universe, but we are loners, Amidst the Moving Spheres.
- Program Note by composer
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Works for Winds by This Composer
- Noah Gorman website Accessed 23 January 2023