Rodney Rawlings’s art song “When Matter Touches Antimatter” describes a well-known astronomical concept and uses it as a metaphor applicable to a well-known human situation. Here are two takes on it, one by soprano (video and audio) and one by tenor (audio only):
Soprano Amanda Noelle Neal on February 27, 2018, at the event New Brew: The Brewening, Heartland Cafe Bar, Chicago, hosted by Opera on Tap:
Symphony No. 1, Op. 86, was composed by Gennady Stolyarov II between June 2017 and January 2018 and is subtitled “The Contemporary World”. Mr. Stolyarov intended this symphony to be a commentary on the world and U.S. events of 2016-2017, during which civilization was severely tested. Each of the first three movements depicts the epistemic, political, and material crises which befell much of the world during this time period and threatened to undo much of the progress that civilization achieved up to that time. The choice to have the fourth movement be about *preserving* the good aspects of historical and contemporary life was motivated by the observation that, although severely strained and beset by setbacks from both nature and society, our civilization did not ultimately collapse during 2017, and we have made it thus far. Watch a video version of the entire symphony on YouTube here.
Movement 1 – Uncertainty – Length: 6:51
The main melody is at once ominous and much more restrained than it could be – evoking an individual seeking to focus and chart a path through an environment where little is predictable and previous understandings of the terrain he navigated have shown to be faulty. What can he hope to achieve, what can he rely upon, and whom can he trust? Various other themes in this movement show elements of longing for a bygone (though relatively recent) time, determination, and hope (though will it be disappointed hope?) – although in the background there is a certain din of uncertainty that leads each melody to be a bit less free-flowing or expressive than it would be if composed during a calmer era. This movement poses the question, “What will become of our world, and what will this era do to each of our lives?”
This movement displays the cyclical and protracted struggle between two colossal forces, neither of them benign. Both of them actually resemble one another in substance (although they are in different keys – A minor and C minor – but which of these represents the Right and which represents the Left, and does it make any difference?). There are segments in which the keys are mixed – representing one force seeking to wrest power from the other – with the ultimate outcome being the same melody in a different key. This pattern continues over the course of multiple variations and orchestrations.
Movement 3 – The Fragility of Civilization – Length: 5:19
Composed in 3/4 meter and following a “theme and variations” format, this movement actually encompasses all of the minor keys. The underlying structure and the systematic progression of the keys from one variation to the next represent the fabric of human civilization, which, in recent years, has been continually challenged by the forces of ruin – including violent conflict, irrationality, natural disasters, political folly, institutional breakdown, and disintegrating standards of behavior – along with the still-present age-old perils of disease and death. This piece can be perceived as a grimly determined waltz, danced on the edge of calamity – but as long as the forward motion within the structure continues, no matter what content the contemporary world throws at it, civilization has a fighting chance. For those who listen through to the ending, there is a glimmer of hope – perhaps appended in a “deus ex machina” fashion, but there is a purpose to it, especially when considered in light of what it leads to in Movement 4.
The first melody in this movement is the “preservation” theme, which is repeated under many different arrangements and frames the significantly re-orchestrated versions of segments from six of Mr. Stolyarov’s marches – Marches #1, 2, 8, 9, 11, and 12 – composed between 2000 and 2014. This is intended to communicate several insights: (i) at a time of great macro-scale uncertainty, only the efforts of the individual – each in their own way – can preserve what is good about civilization; (ii) one should cherish the accomplishments of one’s past and build upon them, integrating them with the present and future – because, no matter what happens, past achievements are irreversible gains; (iii) in building a brighter future, we should hearken back to the good aspects of life and human creation that were achieved prior to 2016. It is not possible for humankind to begin anew; one cannot rebuild the world, or any subset thereof, from scratch – but it is possible to undo the damage of the recent chaos by reasserting and re-instantiating the values, ideas, objects, and infrastructures that make life decent and progress possible.
A better future can only be achieved by holding onto and building upon the best aspects of the past – both personally and for humankind as a whole.
This symphonic march was composed by Gennady Stolyarov II on the occasion of the 84th Birthday of his grandfather, Gennady Stolyarov I, on October 24, 2017. This piece contains exactly 84 measures. The opus number is coincidental, but fortuitously so – as it looks forward to another year.
In the 1950s and 1960s, Gennady Stolyarov I led the development of some of the first computers in the Soviet Union and was granted the IEEE Computer Pioneer Award in the year 2000 for his achievements – “For pioneering development in ‘Minsk’ series computers’ software, of the information systems’ software and applications and for data processing and database management systems concepts dissemination and promotion”.
This composition is played using the Symphonic Orchestra in the Ludwig 3.0 Premium Software.
The Rational Argumentator is pleased to feature the most current arrangement of Rodney Rawlings’s musical adaptation of lyrics from Lord Alfred Tennyson’s 1847 poem, The Princess. This is a piano rendition, following up on Mr. Rawlings’s 2004 version of this piece for string orchestra.
Composer’s Description: In the link below I present a piano rendition of my song “Come Down, O Maid.”
The song is my musical setting of a Tennyson lyric that appears in his long poem The Princess (1847). Those much-loved verses, which I have presented at the very bottom of this post, have been described as “a summons to the valleys of domestic affection, away from the heights of idealism and abstraction.”
MP3 file for piano rendition (left-click to listen, right-click to download):“Come Down, O Maid”
If the reader is looking at my lyrics here while listening, it should be borne in mind that, because the vocal part is also represented by a piano sound, in a couple of sections it is harder to distinguish the two aurally:
Away below the frozen mountain
Deep in the valley was a shepherd,
And he sang:
Come down, O maid, come from yonder mountain:
What pleasure lives in height and cold? Come down, and cease
To sit a star on the sparkling spire.
Love is of the valley, O come thou down
And find him there,
Hand in hand with Plenty;
Nor cares for Death and Morning on the silver horns,
Nor firths of ice, furrow-cloven falls;
Let them dance thee do-own
To find him there.
(Transitional musical passage)
O maid, come down;
Leave the monstrous ledges
To spill their wreaths
That like a broken purpose waste:
So waste not thou;
All the vales await thee-ee;
Azure pillars arise to thee.
My shepherd pipe, children too, are calling,
Sweeter thy voice, but every sound is sweet;
The rivulets so clear hur’ying through the la-awn,
The Rational Argumentator again features this piece by Rodney Rawlings — a musical paean to Halley’s Comet — the feeling of the once-in-a-lifetime expectation and approach of the comet, its spectacular and beautiful show, and its eternal farewell.
The Rational Argumentator again renders available Rodney Rawlings’s composition envisioning the rebuilding of the World Trade Center after the terrorist attacks. The beginning signifies quiet contemplation of the ruins; the hammering notes – the construction; the ending – the completed tower.
By popular demand, the PDF score of Mr. Stolyarov’s Composition for Piano and Harpsichord, Op. 50, composed in 2008, has been released. It is available for free download here.
This experimental composition, Mr. Stolyarov’s first attempt at polyphony in 2008, explores the interplay between two instruments, including their potential to simultaneously play two different but complementary melodies. The mood of this piece also alternates between tense and jubilant.
This work was remastered using the Finale 2011 software, with the Steinway Grand Piano and Harpsichord instruments.
Soprano Amanda Noelle Neal performed Rodney Rawlings’s song “To Venus and Mars” at New Brew Chicago’s “A Warm Welcome” concert on May 16, 2017, at The Elbo Room, Chicago, Illinois. This was the first live, public performance of the full song.
“To Venus and Mars (The Spaceman’s Lament)” is another song from my musical The Watcher on the Shore, offered in the hope of sparking interest in the play’s production. The theme of the song is the homesickness that would undoubtedly be felt at times by a lone explorer of deep space—especially if he thought he might never return to Earth. Utterly alone and impossibly far from one’s home planet, would the thought of perhaps never again experiencing earthly life be bearable?
Of course, many pioneering spirits would not be afflicted with thoughts like this; their deep-seated passion to explore and learn would overwhelm all other considerations. In fact, in the play, the song is sung by one who does not wholly identify with such spirits. But one must admit that the case of outer space is extreme, and I can’t help but think that even the strongest souls might now and then succumb to such a sentiment. Especially in the coming early years of interplanetary travel, travelers may have to contend with a new malady consisting in a soul-destroying longing and nostalgia.
Lyrics for “To Venus and Mars” (May 29, 2017)
While children down here in the fields
Catch fireflies in jars,
So grown men chase evening light …
… To Venus and Mars
Someday a brave man will go,
Someone who can bear to be launched
And leave us below.
But deep in the sky
He will lose sight of the earth
Ere catching that one final glimpse—
Stuff of memoirs—
Knowing he’s bound on a course
To Venus and Mars.
Now he must seek other realms instead.
It was time for those last looks to end.
Echoes remind him of what they said
When he first heard their call to ascend:
“Do you find most of this globe absurd,
“With its throngs, restless passions, and tears?
“This world is vain, as we’ve often heard.
“Do you long for a mission that’s one-way
“To Venus and Mars—to Venus and Mars—?”
Near Venus and Mars,
Yet might he grow ill at ease
To gaze on them, visions of Earth
Taint all that he sees?
This trav’ler may soon
Dream he will one day return
To mingle on streets full of life,
To chase falling stars
And quite serenely look up to Venus and Mars.
(Spoken:) And quite serenely look up
(Sung:) To Venus and Mars.
Amanda Noelle Neal is a Chicago-based lyric soprano with degrees in Vocal Performance from Roosevelt University’s Chicago College of Performing Arts and Loyola University New Orleans. While pursuing her Master’s Degree at CCPA, Amanda performed the roles of Genovieffa in “Sour Angelica”, Ariadne in “The Abandonment of Ariadne”, and The Unseen Voice in “The Deliverance of Theseus”, both by Darius Milhaud.
Amanda has sung lead and supporting vocals in multiple bands in Chicago. She is a member of the all-female opera-improv troupe Forte Chicago. See her YouTube channel.
Song of 2016, Op. 84 – Musical Composition and Video by G. Stolyarov II
2016 was a bleak year for human decency and has brought a major erosion of the core values of civilization: liberty, reason, honesty, and peace. This tragic composition mourns the manifold loss of life, senseless destruction of property, rampant misinformation, tribalism, xenophobia, and cultural degeneration that swept much of the Western and non-Western world alike during the most regressive year of this millennium thus far.
This composition is played using the Symphonic Orchestra in the Ludwig 3.0 Premium Software.
A grand waltz for piano, cello, string section, oboe, and timpani, composed in the key of C# major, with interspersed major and minor passages. The two main themes are varied throughout the piece using different orchestrations and an increase in ornamentation.
This waltz was composed by Mr. Stolyarov on June 16-18, 2016, and is played using the Finale 2011 software.