Scriabin’s “Prometheus, The Poem of Fire”: Revelations of the “Mystic Chord”

In Greek mythology, the Titan and “supreme trickster” Prometheus steals fire from the gods and brings it to humanity in defiance of Zeus. For the Russian composer Alexander Scriabin (1872-1915), Prometheus’ fire symbolized searing creative energy and an ecstatic expansion of human consciousness. Influenced by mysticism, Theosophy, and the theories of Nietzsche, Scriabin believed that the highest calling of humanity was to escape the physical world and enter a vast “oneness” with the …

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Bright Blue Music

As a followup to last Wednesday’s post, here is another exuberant slice of musical postmodernism by American composer Michael Torke (b. 1961). Bright Blue Music (1985) is a celebration of one of the most basic and fundamental building blocks of tonal music: the pull of the V chord (the dominant) back home to I (tonic). Throughout the twentieth century many composers avoided tonal relationships altogether, which makes the opening of Bright Blue Music, with its conventional …

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Even Better Than the Real Thing

In 1984, a bold, new skyscraper emerged on the Manhattan skyline, which captured everyone’s attention and became the subject of intense controversy. The Chippendale-inspired broken pediment crown of architect Philip Johnson’s AT&T Building shocked the architectural establishment because it so profoundly violated the ruling aesthetic of the day. This bizarre new icon seemed to be cheerfully thumbing its nose at the solemn, modernist glass boxes which surrounded it. Postmodernism was born. Modernism, …

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December

Music occupies the mysterious realm of metaphor, expressing realities which cannot be put into words. For American composer Michael Torke (b. 1961) music is inextricably bound to extramusical associations like colors, memories and feelings. His evocative titles give us a glimpse at these associations. In a previous post we looked at Torke’s synesthesia, a neurological blurring of the senses which allows him to “hear” colors. December for string orchestra was written in 1995. Why do …

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