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I have a lot of things I *should* be working on... so what happens?

Yep, that's right, as I should be getting up and getting in the shower and going, I catch sight of a friend liking a picture someone posted, and I look at a few other pictures posted on that page, and I catch a glimpse of a picture as I scroll by that might involve a certain watery tart and a sword (but it may not, I didn't look at it closely, so it might just have been a knight-lady in a sunny woodland glade or something entirely different) and suddenly I'm scrambling to open a new window in Open Office, and I'm typing... and this is (completely unedited) what I get:



Lady in the Lake

By Everett A Warren



That's not how the story goes.

Her voice is raspy, cold, weighted down by the years. There's wisps of grey visible from under the cloak, but not much else you can read from her. Maybe the hunching over, that curve like a sapling that reaches fast for the light and then, over time, bends closer to the ground... maybe that arc is from the weight of that cloak. A thick, heavy, unforgiving material like a warrior might wear. Why scratch the armour when that dense, uncomfortable fabric will turn the sharpest blade and dampen the mightiest hammer. The kind of weight that is not for old women to bear, but is invaluable to the young warrior.

So she tells me that's not how the story goes, and I'm caught. Story is my stock and trade, and I had been telling all about Arturo and Kam and the Table Round and The Sword and I know the tale, know it through and through, the words tripping off my tongue beautifully, and each word lovingly crafted into the whole.

I should know better, because I do know better. And who could know better than I? After all, it was not some poor, bent beggarlady who had watched The Sword from its Sheath leap out into Arturo's hand, glimmering with glamours and preternatural light. It was not some scraggly withered wench who listened attentively to the Wise Woman Myrlynne as she prophesied and advised and taught the Boy Who Would Be King.

And it was not, most certainly and empathetically not, no way, no how, some vile peasant wretch of a hag, a grandmother of shit and dirt and nothing of any worth whatsoever, who slid the blade betwixt Arturo's plate and into that soft, yielding under layer of his flesh, letting his blessed royal lifeblood flow on to the battlefield on that, his last day, and...

Pardon. A moment please.

There.

You see, I was there.

It was I.

I am Mordred.

Oh, some say I was Arturo's younger brother, some say I was his son. We called each other brothers, and although we spilt much blood side by side through the years, the blood that ran within us was wholly our own.

But that is of little matter, it merely clarifies some of the tales you may have heard. Which brings me back to this tale, and the tale I had been telling when this mere woman claims I am wrong and that my story is not what I know it to be, and that the tale I am telling takes a different path entirely.

My anger rises, and the years fall from me, the curse revived, and still... I listen to her, ensnared, myself and my audience now hers. I hear her words wind and twist and echo and resolve, and I wonder briefly if this is Myrlynne, freed from her entrapment -- which I was quite sure involved her death as well, or as close as I could manufacture to it -- and come to seek revenge, because so magickal are her speakings that I can not help but believe.


Copyright 2013 Everett Ambrose Warren

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Elinor Remick Warren: The Legend of King Arthur
Thomas Hampson, baritone - Lawrence Vincent, tenor
Polish Radio and Television Symphony Orchestra and Chorus of Cracow
Szymon Kawalla, conductor
Bronislawa Wietrzny, choral director





Of course, there are three very obvious reasons why I chose to pick up this release. Unless some information is missing (and, truth to tell, much is), Elinor is not a close relation. I'm not clear on her genealogy, and although we could share a many-great grandfather somewhere, that person was most likely living and breathing prior to the 1500's, but still, sharing a last name with a composer is pretty cool.

The second reason would be a simple enough one: although this is now changing, there were very few female composers prior to who are still recorded and performed now - off the top of my head, and I'm sure I'm missing one, I come up with Amy Beach (1867-1944) and Elinor Remick Warren (1900-1991). An unfortunately small, select group.

The third reason is the Arthurian subject matter. Specifically, excerpts from Alfred, Lord Tennyson's Idylls of the King, for that is the text of this choral symphony. I suppose just the fact that it is a choral symphony - almost more of a cantata, as vocals run throughout, unlike so many other choral symphonies, which make the vocalists sit quietly until the last movement.

There is some vague sense of period art about this - similar, in some senses, to those black & white films of Arthurian legends. This piece was first performed in 1940, which very likely indicates that some of those movies took their cues from this slightly earlier piece, and not the other way around.

The work is divided into two parts, each almost 35 minutes long. Part Two is further divided into an Intermezzo, The Three Queens and Sir Bedivere's Lament, King Arthur's Farewell, More Things Are Wrought By Prayer, and the Finale. There are distinct sections to the first part, but it is not divided by title or individual tracks.

The opening of the work is quite impressive, plying the romantic symphonic trade, and setting the mood for the setting of Tennyson's words.

I'm looking forward to hearing more of Elinor's compositions, as Cambria and a few other labels have finally managed to get her work recorded. Sadly, this disc, made in 1989, was the world premier recording - showing that, even though orchestras willingly performed her works for many years, record companies did not pay her any mind. Partially, it's the mixed blessing that is classical music (in the generic sense, not in the sense of the Classical period): it spends so much time looking into the past, there is little room for newer composers to fit in.

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Everett

July 2014

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