The Gods of Old are Silent – Live Performance

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On 24th June, 2017, my work ‘The Gods of Old are Silent’ (on Lord Byron’s poem) was performed in Orestiada, Greece, during one of the open air recital in frame of the annual music and art urban festival ‘Oresteia’. The performance had been conducted due to the kindness of the administration of the Municipal enterprise of cultural development for public benefit (DIKEPAO), the Municipal music school (Odeio), and its choirmaster and vocal teacher Maria Dimitriadou.

Originally composed for the 2-part chorus, the work had been arranged for two female voices by Maria Dimitriadou (the flute part was omitted).

The performers:

Poem reciting, vocal: Stella Pantou, Dimitra Fydanidou (pupils of the vocal department of the Odeio)

Introductory speech, piano: Maria Dimitriadou

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For the Greek audience, the translation of the English text of the Byron’s poem was made by Dimitrios Pispinis:

Οι αρχαίοι Θεοί είναι σιωπηλοί στην ακτή  

Από τότε που ο μεγάλος Πάν χάθηκε, και με ένα βρυχηθμό    

Από τα νερά του Ιονίου ακούστηκε μία φοβερή    

Φωνή που διακήρυξε «ο Μεγάλος Παν είναι νεκρός.»     

Πόσα πέθαναν μαζί του! ψέματα ή αλήθεια – το όνειρο 

Ήταν όμορφο που γέμισε κάθε ρυάκι   

Με περισσότερο από πτερυγωτούς κατοίκους, και στόλισε    

Δάση και νερά με ντροπαλές νύμφες που περιφρόνησαν 

Τις θεότητες που τις κυνήγησαν, ή στις αγκαλιές  

Με τους θεούς γέννησαν την υψηλή γενιά των ηρώων

Τα ονόματα των οποίων βρίσκονται στους λόφους και στις θάλασσες.

 

It was my honor and great pleasure to be performed first in Greece and in Orestiada.

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On Desert Rose

On Desert Rose, for guitar quartet

Date of composing June 2017

Genre program Romantic piece, fantasy, musical poem

Style Neo-Romantic, Romantic, Arabic ethnic

Duration [11′]

Level of difficulty intermediate

Copyright © 2017 Natalia Pispini   all rights reserved

Description

In D, Lontano. Lento sostenuto.  A program composition inspired by Arabian desert, its nature and culture, and based on the poem composed specifically for this music by Natalia Pispini.

In spring 2017, I received the suggestion from classical guitarist César Mora to compose a piece for his ensemble Cairo Guitar Collective based in Cairo, Egypt. The proposition was to compose music which would reflect Arabic elements. I liked the idea and the new challenge of composing for the guitar. Some years ago I have visited the National Museum in Riyadh where I was impressed by the desert rose, the rock formation with amazing scheme of rose petals (the photo of this rock is used in the image above). So, I thought of the desert like metaphor of death, loneliness, indifference, while the rose could symbolize life, love, expectations… Thus, the fabula, then the poem and the music were created.

Poem

ON  DESERT  ROSE

… no one can see her beauty

after the wind ’s soft blowing

the desert rose’s come to life at night

 

her unexpected beauty

 

and in the morning  – a breathless rock again

one has to guard another spring

as month shaban ’ll be coming

in hazy gleams of sickle moon hilal

guard as it ‘ll breeze from south …

 

Program plot can be described as following:

It had happened in a lonely desert. There was a stone desert rose. Once by night, in spring, in month shaban, under the crescent moon hilal, after the south wind the stone desert rose had become an alive flower. It revealed its shining beauty but nobody could see it in the desert at night. The morning and the sunrise came, and the rose became a stone again.

Musical themes

The main musical themes are those of

desert (mm.1-16),

night and loneliness (mm. 16-19, 28-39),

crescent moon (mm. 50-53),

south wind (mm. 63-66),

desert rose crystal stone (mm. 20-26),

desert rose as a beautiful flower (mm. 112-127),

morning light of the sunrise (mm. 156-169).

Musical structure

The musical structure is a long Romantic program piece with 4 major sections:

Introduction (Lontano) It’s like the beginning of a fairy-tale. Refers to the place of the story, the Arabian desert.

Exposition (Lento sostenuto. Lento arioso. Con moto etc., letters A-B) shows the initial situation (it is night in the desert, there is a stone rose, and the crescent moon is on the sky, and the south wind is blowing).

Middle Section (Meno mosso. Più mosso etc., letters C-D) describes how the stone rose became an alive flower, and show its beauty.

Final Section (Lento sostenuto. Lento arioso, letters E-F-G) reminds about the desert, night and loneliness, and leads to the end of the story (the morning is coming with the sunrise, and the rose becomes a stone again).

Arabic influence

When composing this music, the particular elements of Arabic music were used.

Sometimes the texture is affected by the Arabic oud playing manners.

There are so called ‘arabesques’ ornamenting the melody.

Finally, the Arabic maqams are represented:

Hijaz (themes of desert, night and loneliness),

Saba (theme of the stone desert rose),

Bayati (theme of moon),

Huzam (themes of the wind and the rose flower).

These maqams are interpreted as elements of Romantic / Neo-Romantic music style.

Performance notes

All the tempo changes are suggested by the composer and can be revised or omitted by the musicians according to their taste and professional level. Since the music has a character of a fantasy / fairy story, it’s tempo rubato can be played in various ways.

View the score sample

Listen to MIDI excerpt on YouTube

 

The Gods of Old are Silent, on Lord Byron’s poem

For a long time I wanted to compose a choral work with English lyrics but related to Greece. Among the first things there was Lord Byron’s philhellenism that came to my mind, and after searching I found one of his poems, a passage which is practically unknown. It looks rather like an unfinished draft, but the more I was reading it, the more impact it had on me. At once, this rough but yet genius fragment had given to me what I was seeking for: a retrospective view where great Greek mythology, history and spirit of freedom would be condensed just in few lines. Thus I’d made my choice. The choral song is easy to perform, it has only two choral parts (soprano-alto and tenor-bass). The flute pastoral solo (reference to ‘the mighty Pan’) had been added to the classical chorus+piano ensemble as an option.

Structure and technique

The song is in C major, Con moto e narrante. The lyrics are Lord Byron’s passage from his unfinished poem ‘Aristomenes’ written in Cephalonia island in September 1823, shortly after his arriving to Greece to help the Greek people in the liberation:

The Gods of old are silent on the shore.
Since the great Pan expired, and through the roar
Of the Ionian waters broke a dread
Voice which proclaimed “the Mighty Pan is dead.”
How much died with him! false or true—the dream
Was beautiful which peopled every stream
With more than finny tenants, and adorned
The woods and waters with coy nymphs that scorned
Pursuing Deities, or in the embrace
Of gods brought forth the high heroic race
Whose names are on the hills and o’er the seas.

The musical form is free and reflects the text. Natural modes have been chosen as the appropriate for the solemn, epic character of the piece. The phrases are evenly distributed between female and male voices to provide the easiness of singing of choral texture, and that makes the work suitable for amateur singers (while the piano and the flute parts should be considered of intermediate level of difficulty).

Performance notes

The performance is expected to move in moderate tempo and strict, stable rhythm. The flute part is optional and can be omitted.

Date of composing March 2017

Genre choral song for mixed 2-parts chorus, piano and flute

Language English

Style Neo-Romantic

Duration [2’20”]

Level of difficulty beginner or amateur chorus

Copyrights music: © 2017 Natalia Pispini; George Gordon Byron’s poem ‘Aristomenes’ from public domain (https://en.wikisource.org)

Look at the score sample

Listen to the MIDI-rendering on YouTube

Purchase the escore on Etsy 

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This work had its first performance on June 24, 2017, in Orestiada, Greece. read more…

 

Songs of Spring, three choral songs on Walt Whitman’s poems

 

songs_of_spring_title

  1. The First Dandelion. C major. Adagio
  2. After the Dazzle of Day. B minor – B major. Lento
  3. Out of May’s Shows Selected. G major. Allegretto

Date of composing April 2014; May 2015 – revised; January 2016 – revised

Genre choral songs for mixed chorus SATB a cappella; the second song is for SATB and alto solo

Language English

Style Romantic

Duration [1’43”], [2’21”], [1’52”]

Level of difficulty advanced

Copyrights music: © 2014-2016 Natalia Pispini; lyrics: Walt Whitman’s poems from public domain (credit to http://www.gutenberg.org)

Ideas and inspirations

Composed in spring but in desert scorching environment, the work was inspired by my dreaming of a spring full of fresh colors, fragrant smells and awaking noises. Three short poems by Walt Whitman had been chosen from his great poetic cycle ‘The Leaves of Grass’, because of their vivid and picturesque character. They were combined within a cycle with its own evolution of poetical mood. The unity of these songs I could describe as a course of spring with the parallels to some phases of human life. Thus, the music is displaying images from the early spring (1st song with its pale colors, fresh plants, shy emergence, innocence, calmness) through the moment of pause and self-reflection (2nd song) to the late spring (3rd song with its bold colors, grown plants, completed existence, maturity, motion). The alternating focus onto external and internal world creates additional lyrical dramatic contrast within the cycle.

Performance notes

When performed together, it is important to follow up the original tonalities and tempo marks. For the performance notes, score samples and audio samples of each of the songs please click on the references below. Although the songs are intended to be performed as a cycle, it is possible to sing them separately.

The First Dandelion

After the Dazzle of Day

Out of May’s Shows Selected

After the Dazzle of Day, on Walt Whitman’s poem

 

From the choral cycle ‘Songs of Spring’, No.2

Date of composing April 2014; May 2015 – revised; January 2016 – revised

Genre choral song for alto solo and mixed chorus SATB a cappella

Language English

Style Romantic

Duration [2’21”]

Level of difficulty advanced

Copyrights music: © 2014-2016 Natalia Pispini; lyrics: Walt Whitman’s poems from public domain (credit to http://www.gutenberg.org)

Description

The song is in B minor – B major, Lento. For the lyrics, I chose ‘After the Dazzle of Day’ poem by Walt Whitman from his ‘The Leaves of Grass’:

After the dazzle of day is gone,

Only the dark, dark night shows to my eyes the stars;

After the clangor of organ majestic, or chorus, or perfect band,

Silent, athwart my soul, moves the symphony true.

The free developing form is based on alternation alto solo and chorus sections. The chorus repeats the poetical phrases sung by the soloist, and only near the end they sing together. The solo and chorus sections have different music by their meter (3/4 vs. 5/8), rhythm (more varied rhythm vs. more monotonous) and melodic contours (wider melody vs. step-by-step moving melody). The vocal ranges are: Alto solo – G3 – B-flat4; Chorus: Soprano – C-sharp4 – F5, Alto – A3 – A-sharp4, Tenor – F-sharp3 – F4, Bass – G-sharp2 – F-sharp3.

Performance notes

The alto solo voice is expected to have deep and rich timbre. The parts for alto solo and alto chorus are composed in such a way, when the best performance could be provided if the soloist is placed near other altos or surrounded by them. The 5/8 meter beats need to be as rhythmically precise as possible. The chorus harmonies contain a number of dissonant combinations.

Look at the score sample

Listen to the midi rendering

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The First Dandelion, on Walt Whitman’s poem

From the choral cycle ‘Songs of Spring’, No.1.

Date of composing April 2014; May 2015 – revised; January 2016 – revised

Genre choral song for mixed chorus SATB a cappella

Language English

Style Romantic

Duration [1’43”]

Level of difficulty advanced

Copyrights music: © 2014-2016 Natalia Pispini; lyrics: Walt Whitman’s poems from public domain (credit to www.gutenberg.org)

Description

The song is in C major, Adagio. For the lyrics, ‘The First Dandelion’ poem by Walt Whitman from ‘The Leaves of Grass’ had been chosen:

Simple and fresh and fair from winter’s close emerging,

As if no artifice of fashion, business, politics, had ever been,

Forth from its sunny nook of shelter’d grass — innocent, golden, calm as the dawn,

The spring’s first dandelion shows its trustful face.

When I was composing this piece, I thought of simple and easy-to-listen music. The texture is quite transparent, with drops of motif imitations. The form is following the changes of the poetic lines and has ABCA1 scheme. The vocal ranges are: Soprano – D4 – F5, Alto – A-flat3 – G4, Tenor – E-flat3 – D-flat4, Bass – G2 – A3.

Performance notes

The pastoral character of this song better matches with light-colored voices. Prevailing low dynamics and slow Adagio tempo might constitute certain difficulties for a chorus. In this case, slightly changes toward louder volumes or/and faster tempos are possible.

Look at the score sample

Listen to the midi rendering

Purchase the score and parts on Etsy