Thursday, December 09, 2004

What is Wonderful Clockwork?

Wonderful Clockwork is the working title for a chamber opera about the discovery of the laws of planetary motion. It is at once a work unto itself, and a third of a larger work in progress about scientific discovery.

The characters in the opera are based on historical figures, and represent 3 world-views. The excessive astronomer Tycho Brahe represents hedonism and extravagance, the pious Johannes Kepler represents a deeply religious and devout perspective, and the Dwarf Jepp represents a mystical approach to the same problem.

Because Wonderful Clockwork (and eventually the complete work) is about 3 opposing and complementary ideas, every aspect of the work is tripartite. There are three characters representing those ideas, three scenes divisible by three musical sections each, and all the music is in meters, the goal of the writers was to match in the microcosm the ideas of the macrocosm.

Lyrically, the libretto follows trends of modern American opera, utilizing direct and impassioned poetry. Some of the libretto is paraphrased or even quoted from the writings of the historical characters. The speech in the text is in an elevated, non-rhyming mode of expression, revealing the passions of the characters through energetic and active language.

Musically, the score is very much in the tradition of American Neo-Romanticism as practiced by Samuel Barber. Stylistically, the piece also bears the stamp of American students of Nadia Boulanger, expecially Aaron Copland and David Conte.


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