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Kyle Kindred: Music

Symphony No. 1: The Remnant, for winds and percussion

(Grade 6)

Symphony No. 1: The Remnant

Some giant stars like those we see in our night’s sky end their astronomically long lives with a large explosion called a supernova.  After the matter clears from this large event, a “dead” version of the star, known as a pulsar, may exist in the place of the former living star. A pulsar is a highly-magnetized spinning neutron star that emits a beam of electromagnetic radiation from its poles as it rotates, gradually expending its energy over billions of years until it finally disappears.1 Symphony No. 1: The Remnant is a four-movement work that celebrates the “creation, life, and destruction” of a pulsar. Throughout the symphony, fragments of the melody from Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star are freely used along with pulsating figures mimicking the repeating patterns in a pulsar’s movements. In addition to the music’s connection with programmatic elements, each of the first three movements is inspired in part and dedicated to a different friend of mine that has recently passed away.

 

I. Introduction and Supernova

A dying super-giant star slowly builds momentum toward one of the largest known types of explosions in the universe – a supernova.2 After a symphonic introduction foreshadowing ideas presented throughout the symphony, the opening movement continues as an alto saxophone solo with an improvisatory feel floats above a gradually expanding minimalist textural accompaniment. The solo, becoming more erratic as the accompaniment expands, represents the dying star’s imagined struggle to remain living as the forward motion of the universe continues. A constant repeated-note figure appears representing a kind of “sci-fi spaceship alarm” that persists throughout the remainder of the movement.  As the imminent conclusion nears, a “chorale of hopeful energy” as well as “defiant celebratory dance-music” appear, creating a giant textural build toward the movement’s climactic end. Finally, the “life” of a new pulsar is created upon the death of the super-giant star. This movement is dedicated to my late, dear friend and colleague, Sheryl Murphy-Manley, whose wisdom, artistry, creativity, and kindness provided for me a shining example of hopeful energy and positivity, even in the face of stage IV metastatic breast cancer.

 

II. Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Pulsar

Humans can only see a pulsar when the beam of emission is pointing toward Earth, much the way a lighthouse can only be seen when the light is pointed in the direction of an observer. Thus, a pulsar viewed from Earth might appear to slowly blink on and off as the spinning body gently wobbles (like a spinning top) and its light is repeatedly pointed towards and away from Earth in a regular pulsating fashion.1 This movement is dedicated to the memory of my soft-spoken, warm, and gentle friend, Venancio “Carlos” Perez, whose light still pulses through the lives of his friends, family, and those fortunate enough to have met him.

 

III. Disco Sprach Zarathustra

Experienced from up close, a pulsar might be quite different from the peaceful blinking light we see from Earth. The radiation spewing from the poles of the spinning pulsar would immediately incinerate anything in its wake. Disco Sprach Zarathustra evokes the unimaginable scene of a day on a pulsar planet. Imagine being on a world revolving around a pulsar! Your sun might appear to be a blindingly bright and radioactive strobe light throughout the daytime, making your home a sort of “deadly disco planet.”3 This movement, lightly sprinkled with far-out tuba solo passages, is dedicated to my college friend, the late tubist Doug Baughman, who for me was a source of many happy, profound, and groovy personal memories, musical and otherwise. With a lyrical descending solo tuba line, the final measures evoke a picture found on Doug’s Facebook legacy page: Seen from behind, he carries his tuba while walking down a hallway away from the camera as if to say, “Later, dudes.”

 

IV. Lux Aeterna

The final movement begins using two sacred texts in a kind of ceremonial elegy for the faded pulsar, which has finally expelled the last of its matter and energy gradually over billions of years.  The traditional communion text from the Mass Requiem, Lux Aeterna, is spoken by the ensemble in seven languages (Latin, Japanese, Russian, English, French, German, and Italian), representing the unifying desire for peace and rest from around our relatively small and diverse planet. The melody and harmonization of William B. Bradbury's 19th-century hymn setting of William B. Tappan's text 'Tis Midnight and on Olive's Brow also appear, sung optionally by mezzo-soprano. Near the end of the elegy is a second presentation of the Bradbury hymn presented in counterpoint with members of the ensemble singing the Lux Aeterna text in the symphony’s only complete presentation of the Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star melody. The last half of the movement evokes a journey into the future of the matter and energy that has been expelled by the pulsar throughout its life. This stardust becomes the material which is used to form new stars, completing the circle of a star’s life (and death). We conclude with a celebration of the creation of new life, which could perhaps include a star just like our own sun. Many of the heavier elements found on Earth are, in fact, the product of supernovae from billions of years in the past. Pulsars are our ancestors, and the matter that makes up our bodies and our world will inevitably become part of more stars, supernovae, and pulsars.4

 


English translation of the Lux Aeterna text:

 

Let perpetual light shine upon them, O Lord,

with your saints forever,

for you are merciful.

 

Grant them eternal rest, O Lord,

and let perpetual light shine upon them.

 

 

 

 

'Tis Midnight and on Olive's Brow selected text:

 

(verse 1) ’Tis midnight, and on Olive’s brow

The star is dimmed that lately shone;

'Tis midnight in the garden now,

The suff’ring Savior prays alone.

 

(verse 4) 'Tis midnight, and from ether-plains

Is borne the song that angels know

Unheard by mortals are the strains

That sweetly soothe the Savior’s woe.

 

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pulsar

2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supernova

3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pulsar_planet

4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star_formation

 

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