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

 

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

Purchase the score