A MIRACLE OF RARE DEVICE
|Dramatic Recital for Soprano, Clarinet, and Piano
Music by Christopher Fulkerson
Text by Ray Bradbury
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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.
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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The score of Act One is 117 pages long.
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.
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