Arts Blog

The Stories Behind the Eclipse Music

With the once in a lifetime event coming up on Monday, here is some background information on the composers featured in All Classical’s Eclipse soundtrack.

Richard Strauss’ tone poem Also Sprach Zarathustra is one of the most popular pieces of classical music, thanks in part to the success of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Yet, the pairing almost never happened. The director of 2001 had already picked Hollywood composer Alex North to score the film. The director changed his mind after North had finished. North was hurt by the change, and claims his score is the best. You can compare the two compositions here:

Gustav Holst’s 1914 work The Planets is composed of seven short tone poems, one for each planet. In his work, each planet has a purpose: Mars is the bringer of war, Venus the bringer of peace. Mercury, the winged messenger. Jupiter, the bringer of jollity. Saturn, the bringer of old age. Uranus, the magician. And Neptune, the mystic. Holst was inspired by astrology and horoscopes. It took him two years to compose. Mars and Jupiter are the most popular tone poems.

Carl Nielsen was in the second violin section of the Royal Chapel Orchestra for sixteen years. He was successful as a composer but was not earning enough to quit his job at the Royal Chapel Orchestra. Years later, he signed a publishing deal and left the orchestra. He took a trip to Athens where he was inspired to compose a concert overture, Helios Overture. Helios is about the sun rising over the Aegean Sea. He wrote it in one month.Carl Nielsen’s Helios Overture was first performed in 1903. The initial reviews of Helios Overture were mixed, but it is now one of Nielsen’s claims to fame.

2008 Twilight theatrical poster

Claude Debussy’s Clair de Lune is the third and most famous movement of the Suite Bergamasque. The Suite Bergamasque is made up of four movements and is Debussy’s most famous piano suite. Debussy began working on the suite in 1890 and it was not published until 1905. Clair de Lune means moonlight and was inspired by and named after Paul Verlaine’s 1869 poem. Like Sprach Zarathustra, this movement has been featured in movies such as Twilight (2008) Giant,(1956) and Ocean’s Eleven (2001)

Jacques Offenbach became a household name as a composer of operettas. Barcarolle is the most famous duet of Offenbach’s final opera,The Tales of Hoffmann. Offenbach never finished the score for the opera.The duet first appeared in Hoffman in 1881, in the third act which was removed at the premier. In order to keep the melody in the opera, the second act’s location was changed to keep the duet which was sung offstage instead of by characters.The opera describes the beauty of the night. The melody first appeared in 1864 in Offenbach’s romantic opera which was called Komm’ zu uns.

After those classics, the music transitions to rare works inspired by our solar system.

Fuori Dal Mondo by Ludovico Einaudi is a soundtrack from the movie of the same title. The name translates to “outside from this world.” The movie surrounds a nun who is given an abandoned baby and tries to find the parents of the baby. Einaudi is an italian composer and pianist. He often incorporates contemporary music with his compositions, which makes him an unusual classical composer. His unique style has garnered him a huge fan base that includes celebrities. Einaudi sites Bach, Mozart, and Radiohead as influences. Einaudi’s mother taught him how to play the piano as a child. He studied at Conservatorio Verdi in Milan and with the famous italian composer Luciano Berio.

Stars by Eriks Esenvalds. Esenvalds is a Latin composer and his music ranges from choir to orchestra. Stars was written for a SATB (Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Bass) choir. The piece incorporates turned water glasses which creates a unique and soft sound mimicking stars. Esenvalds used lyrics from Sara Teasdale’s 1920 poem Stars which remarks the beauty of stars and created a choral piece for Musica Baltica. She won the Pulitzer prize for poetry in 1918.

Alone in the night
On a dark hill
With pines around me
Spicy and still,

And a heaven full of stars
Over my head
White and topaz
And misty red;

Myriads with beating
Hearts of fire
The aeons
Cannot vex or tire;

Up the dome of heaven
Like a great hill
I watch them marching
Stately and still.

And I know that I
Am honored to be
Of so much majesty.

–Sara Tesdale

There is little known about William Daman except that he was a baroque composer. A Franco-Flemish musician, Daman migrated to England around 1560. He composed Harmony of the Spheres. In a broader sense, Harmony of the Spheres is an ancient belief that considers the moon, earth, and planets as a form of music.

Sun Prayer is by Gjermund Larsen, a Norwegian traditional folk musician and composer. The sun prayer is sung in his native language and was released in 2010. Larsen is considered one of the most talented Norwegian young fiddler of folk music. In 2006, he formed a trio with double bassist Sondre Meisfjord and pianist/organist Andreas Utnem.

Max Ritcher’s 2004 album,The Blue Notebooks, features the song On the Nature of Daylight on the album. The song is a violin piece, and Ritcher has said the album was inspired by his childhood and the Iraq war. Ritcher was born in Germany and is a pianist and composer. He now resides in Britain. He trained at the Royal Academy of Music. He is also part of an ensemble called Piano Circus. Critics consider this album to be more like a composition of 11 movements than an album with 11 songs. The nature of daylight song has been in many films, including Will Ferrel’s Stranger Than Fiction (2006) and Arrival (2016).

Henryk Gorecki was a polish composer, born in 1933 who studied composing at the Academy in Katowice. Symphony no.2 (finale) was composed in 1972 in honor of the 500th anniversary of astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus’s birth. It is a choral symphony that Gorecki was commissioned to do in an attempt to gain recognition outside of Poland. Gorecki was inspired by Copernicus’s discovery that the earth moves around the sun. This piece requires a big orchestra and large choir which contributed to it being performed less than his other work.

There will also be film compositions from movies Dragonslayer (1981), Apocalypto (2006) and Koyaanisqatsi (1982).

The program will climax as the eclipse reaches totality in Salem with a WORLD PREMIERE broadcast, specially commissioned and recorded for the occasion by All Classical Portland. Composed by renowned Irish musician and scholar Desmond Earley, the new work is scored for choir, cello, and bass drum. Performers include Portland’s outstanding choir the Resonance Ensemble, Oregon Symphony Orchestra principal cellist Nancy Ives, Chris Whyte of the Portland Percussion Group, and improvisational vocalist Erick Valle.



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Intern: Summer 2017


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