Composer's notes

Written in 1992, Atlantis Variations for piano is one of three works written developing material for use in a proposed 4-opera cycle dealing with antediluvian civilisations of antiquity. Musical ideas for the third opera, "Calypso In Exile" are developed in Atlantis Variations Part 2, heard here. (Part 1 develops ideas for the second opera, and Part 3 for the final opera in which Atlantis is destroyed. Ideas for the first opera dealing with the Edenic era were developed in my vocal work "Eden In Atlantis" (1996), released on an earlier Jade CD).

According to the Greek philosopher, Plato, Atlantis was a patriarchal society founded by Poseidon. He divided his kingdom among his ten sons, of whom the most celebrated was Atlas. Among the children of Atlas was a rebellious daughter, Calypso. She was expelled from Atlantis for practising witchcraft, this being a remnant of the earlier matriarchal culture which prevailed in Eden. Like Circe, she set up her own kingdom (queendom?) on one of the many islands which dotted the Atlantic in antediluvian times (when the sea level was lower).

In my libretto, when we first meet Calypso, she is a rather frivolous young woman who has a particular fondness for sailors. She is annoyed when her father deprives her of the fun of living in a bustling seaport by banishing her, for "promoting riotous living". She regards her father's religion as rather pompous. In the opera her careless attitude towards men is later changed when she encounters a sailor with whom she actually falls in love - Ulysses! The opera also deals with military conflict between warring male- and female-dominated tribes. Among the latter are the Gorgons and the Amazons of West Africa, who attempt an invasion of Atlantis. In preparation for writing the opera ,Atlantis Variations Part 2 explores the extremes of female/male polarity. Thus it is written in two sections:-

"FEMALE MAGIC": Musical ideas emerged from the following pathology: "Alluring, unnerving: that which understands logic and implies one premise but acts on another; that which seduces by promises of the expected, but retains power by delivering the unexpected; that which appears familiar, but remains elusive..."

Three extended musical themes are introduced and explored through a succession of variations. "Maya" is a universal deity common to Greek ("Maia"), and to Indian and Amerindian myth. "Maya I" theme is melodic, and is heard first. "Maya II" is a chordal progression. They can be played separately or in polytonal combination. "Maya" is also heard in combination with Calypso's theme. The latter then assumes a Dance form to conclude this section. Other musical phrases are interwoven, which denote herbs and potions of natural medicine, used in the casting of spells.

"PATRIARCHY": This shorter section embodies various musical themes, processional, forceful, intense, which arose from the following pathology: "Law-maker, law-breaker, moral angst, phallic imperative, existential rage, scientific curiosity, religious fervour". Antique themes representing Poseidon and Atlas also figure prominently in the opening and at the close.

The music features much use of wide intervals. As not every pianist has hands of the dimension of those of Francis Poulenc, the judicious use of the pedal, at times, is an acknowledged necessity, to render the music as notated. Such use is at the discretion of the performer, as is the use of effortful rubato in the preparation for and execution of manoeuvres involving same. This especially applies to "Patriarchy", where it is intended that the stress of will exertion should be a perceived characteristic of the strenuous performance of the music, as it is of the pathology of and the social application of the burdensome strictures of patriarchy.

"Atlantis Variations Pt. 3 may be heard on "Autumn Rhapsody", JADCD 1095, and other "Atlantis" works on Jade CDs "Voodoo Fire" (JADCD 1063) and "Eden In Atlantis" (JADCD 1074)

"Atlantis" Program Notes Copyright © 2002 Derek Strahan

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