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:
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.
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.