Part One of
For Six Male Voices AATTBB

By Christopher Fulkerson

Photo by Christopher Fulkerson
March 2, 2011
All RIghts Reserved


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the SCORE of Celestial Sixties I

as well as of the COMPLETE SCORE of

PLUS...See below for soundfiles of parts and sections
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The composition of CELESTIAL SIXTIES: A SYMPHONY OF MEN'S VOICES spans nineteen years of compositional work and thought. I characterize each part of the piece, which is scored for six-part men's voices, as a "dramatic madrigal scene" and the whole piece as a symphony. Part One of the piece, Celestial Sixties I, was completed in 1990, to a commission from the men's chorus Chanticleer by its founder, Louis Botto, to whose memory it is dedicated. It is thirteen minutes long, and the symphony itself is part
of the larger Work In Progress music festival at which I have been working since 1984. Celestial Sixties I was revised slightly in 2009. Its companion piece CELESTIAL SIXTIES II was completed in 2009, and is sixteen minutes long. At twenty nine minutes total duration I feel it is not incorrect to find this pair of movements to be A SYMPHONY OF MEN'S VOICES, especially considering the formal and sound-synthesizing nature of the music, which meets I believe the broader musical characteristics we understand by the term "symphonic." However, it might be more accurate to call the piece a "Symphony of Dramatic Madrigal Scenes for Men's Voices," though that begins to be a bit cumbersome as a genre category. The completed score of the entire piece was released to the public on February 7, 2012, and was made available for sale on December 24, 2014.

Part One is a setting in one movement of the following texts in English:

All Along the Watchtower, by Bob Dylan

The Mantra of Padmasambhava, from the Buddhist Canon
Proverbs for Paranoids I, from GRAVITY'S RAINBOW, by Thomas Pynchon
Lay Down (Candles In the Rain), by Melanie Safka

The Buddhist Mantra of Padmasambhava, from a terma ("revealed treasure") biography of that Tantric master, links the two halves of Celestial Sixties I, is set as a three-voice cadenza that rises from the lowest voices, through the ensemble to its highest voices. At the parallel place in Celestial Sixties II, this highpoint from the Mantra of Padmasambhava is recalled and that of the Heart Sutra takes up in its place, moving in another three-voice group cadenza downward to the lowest voices. Between them, the two cadenzas thus describe a "Gravity's Rainbow," as meant in the title of the eponymous novel by Thomas Pynchon.

The Celestial Sixties cycle is meant to capture the visionary and ecstatic spirit of the 1960s in California and the rest of America, when a new level of awareness seemed to have been achieved by some (though resisted by others), as well as the transcendental but at times troubled mood of its cultural scene, translated into the musical idiom of modern Classical music. The texts were chosen for their sometimes subtle, and at other times provocative interrelations, both within each piece, and between the two of them.

It may be wondered why I have chosen popular texts for use in such a long and complex Modernist work as CELESTIAL SIXTIES: A SYMPHONY OF MEN'S VOICES. I believe that within the limits of what a handful of the very best musical men can sing on their own together - and the symbolism of this few is quite deliberate - this music captures, synthesizes, and celebrates the totality of the magnificence and the scope, the ecstasies and the turbulance of the most socially promising decade America knew in the Twentieth Century, and the decade the full promise of which has most tragically been denied. For while greater tragedies existed, their imperatives have either been met, or the failure to do so is identified.

The tragedy and the promise of resurrection is given in the final passages of the cycle, in the story of St. Stephen, represented in versions both the orthodox and the popular-progressive should be able to recognize. Rather than dwell on the difficulties and disappointment of the world shorn of the possibilities of the social, sexual and free speech revolutions on which we seemed then to be on the verge, but which have been so sorely and repeatedly corrupted and frustrated, I have created a sonic canvas made from the only form of expression on which all whole persons must perforce agree - the human voice. I have full faith that when it is eventually sung as I intend it, this work will create in the hearts and minds of its listeners the sustained passionate and transcendental experience I believe is needed to properly resurrect, celebrate and continue the 1960s, and I believe that it can contribute to give substance to the commitment never to abandon what was best and most worthwhile in the seventh decade of the Twentieth Century.

The dedications of the two parts of CELESTIAL SIXTIES are to musician colleagues, one a singer and group leader, the other a composer and conductor, who have "Gone completely beyond" in that way that none of us looks forward to, and whom both made crucial contributions to the development of musical Modernism in California during their lives that deserve to be remembered. Both of these men died far too young and the dedications are meant in the same spirit as the similarly under-realized decade I try to epitomize and elevate in the work. Louis Botto was a founder and administrator of the men's chorus Chanticleer, who twice commissioned me to write for his group and invited me into his home, and Stephen C. "Lucky" Mosco was a very fine composer and skilled conductor who championed many varieties of musical Modernism and whose music deserves to be better known.


Download the Texts


Persons wishing to print up copies of the score will find that the pages are formatted better for larger pages than usual. The PDFs make good study scores on 8.5/11" paper, but are much more legible on the 11/17" paper for which they are intended. Anyone reading from this music will be much happier reading from the larger format, which in fact, with not overgenerous margins, fits comfortably onto pages of about 11/15" size.

Downloads are available of separate soundfiles created to facilitate learning this work:

The Alto Parts (Parts 1 and 2)

The Tenor Parts (Parts 3 and 4)

The Bass Parts (Parts 5 and 6)

Parts 1, 3, and 5

Parts 2, 4, and 6

Update of December 24, 2014.