A MIRACLE OF RARE DEVICE

Dramatic Recital for Soprano, Clarinet, and Piano
Music by Christopher Fulkerson
Text by Ray Bradbury

THE CITY
Oil on canvas, 21" x 36"
by Christopher Fulkerson, ca. 1979
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Read the Scenario...
Listen to the Computer Realization...
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A MIRACLE OF RARE DEVICE was completed in 2003. It is a tour-de-force, verbatim setting of the short story of the same title by Ray Bradbury. The title comes from the poem Kubla Khan by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, which it quotes. Its three acts total eighty three minutes of music.
This work may be given staged or unstaged.

I have also set the Coleridge poem; for more about this go to KUBLA KHAN. It is this setting of the Coleridge poem that is quoted in A MIRACLE OF RARE DEVICE.

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THE SCENARIO:

Act One: While on a long drive in their Model T jalopy on a mountain road in the Arizona desert in the 1950s, lifelong drifters Robert Greenhill and William Bantlin see a panoramic vision of New York City suspended in the sky. Recovering somewhat from their awe, they decide to stake a claim on the only convenient vista point, in order to charge passers-by for the right to park and view the mirage.

Act Two: Soon however Bob and Will learn that each viewer sees a different city: one sees Rome, another sees Paris; yet another, London. When one especially high-paying customer, called simply the Architect, begins quoting the poem Kubla Khan, Bob and Will see Coleridge's vision of majestic Xanadu. Even more amazed than before, the two drifters are just debating the wisdom of their scheme when they are interrupted by their longtime archrival, motorcyclist Ned Hopper, whom they had successfully avoided earlier. Ned has the paperwork to jump their claim. Rather than argue, Bob and Will quietly retreat to a nearby hilltop.

Act Three: While surveying Ned's activities in their shared opera glass, Bob and Will's mood of philosophical gloom is ended by a welcome sight: Ned quarreling with everybody around him. Since he never believed in the mirage, he never saw it, and therefore neither did his customers. After angrily refunding their money, Ned storms off on his motorcycle, never to be seen again. Bob and Will regain the vista point but are dismayed that they no longer see the mirage. Just as William is cursing Ned for having spoiled everything, the two men see one last car coming down the road. In it is a family of four, and they stop for a look. First the boy, then the girl, then the mother, and finally the father sees the mirage. At last Bob and Will again see it clearly, and together they all stand spellbound, watching the vision of the miraculous city and quoting Coleridge until the sun sets, and the stars come out.

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This piece is 83 three minutes long, not including the two recommended intermissions. It may be performed as a recital, or staged as a dance, mime, puppet, or other kind of theater, film, or cartoon or similar piece. It is envisioned as an excellent vehicle for projections or holographic images of the various cities mentioned in the story (and others as well, as implied in the story, and at the director's discretion). It has been given several times in workshop renditions of the composer reading the text over the computer realization. Young and old have enjoyed it, and without too much prompting have found that its music suits the story.

The composer's preferred production would be with the instrumental players to the side but perhaps visible to the audience, the singer in a more forward or onstage position, definately visible and taking the role of Storyteller, interacting at least sometimes with the stage action (in an ideal production, she would interact continuously, and on stage) with projections or holograms of the miraculous images of the cities described in the story and with a small dance company employed to dance the roles of the sightseers who drive up in their cars to see these cities, and the various other persons mentioned in the story. The production values should seem quaintly and charmingly "dated," since the music itself is meant to sound like a version of Modernist style that might have been written in the 1950s or 1960s. This sound is achieved by employing the octave restrictions of the High Modernists but allowing ideas consistent with, and paraphrases of, certain more conservative styles or methods of organizing musical iconography and materials.

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DOWNLOAD THE NEW SOUNDFILES created with Sibelius:

Download the Sibelius SOUNDFILE of Act One .mid
Download the Sibelius SOUNDFILE of Act One
.aiff

Act One is 25'30" in duration.
The score of Act Two is in preparation, and times at about 27' duration.
The score of Act Three is in preparation, and times at about 29' duration.

DOWNLOAD THE FULLY ENGRAVED SCORE:

Download the Sibelius SCORE of Act One

The score of Act One is 117 pages long.
The score of Act Two is in preparation.
The score of Act Three is in preparation.

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THE OLD SOUNDFILES created with Encore: these are not always satisfactory musically, since they lack dynamics, articulation, and phrasing. The musical effect is of technically brilliant, musically crude performers. But these realizations give a perhaps helpful reading of the music; since the soprano's melody is represented by the sound of an oboe, and the impression made seems to be of a piece intended for piano with woodwinds, some persons, hearing this music, have thought it was jazz. Certainly, there are at least two extended passages which are intended as take-offs of jazz styles: the five-four blues in Act One, andsome of the skittish right-hand dominated piano writing in Act Three. The notion of this music being heard as jazz is very consistent with my intention of creating a kind of sound that might have fit in as a populist work with the Modernism of the time of the stage setting of the action, probably in the 1950s, and no later than the 1960s.

Download the Soundfile of Act One
Download the Soundfile of Act Two
Download the Soundfile of Act Three

DOWNLOAD THE HANDWRITTEN SCORE: The images in the PDF are of the composer's original composition draft, written in a legible free hand not copied with a straightedge. Hard Copy of the 283 page Study Score of this composition draft is $80, mailed to you. Or you can download everything you need right here, for free!

Download the Score of Act One
Download the Score of Act Two
Download the Score of Act Three

The score of Act One is 92 pages long.
The score of Act Two is 91 pages long.
The score of Act Three is 100 pages long.

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The photograph on this page is of CF's painting THE CITY, done while living on Lexington Street in El Cerrito. Its approximate resemblance to San Francisco (upside down from the usual aerial view) is coincidental.

The Ray Bradbury text of A MIRACLE OF RARE DEVICE is used by permission.

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This page was last updated 10/01/2010.

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