A Review of Christopher Schlegel's Symphony #2 in E Minor

G. Stolyarov II

A Journal for Western Man-- Issue XXXVI-- June 20, 2005

A noble symfony must by its nature depict a noble subject, one worthy of contemplation and emulation. Mr. Schlegel provides this subject for his Symphony #2 in E Minor. Of it, he writes, “Whenever I listen to this symphony I think of ancient Vikings:  living in a cold, harsh, forbidding land, sailing far away to unknown, dangerous places, seas and lands.  I kept most of the work in minor keys, which many times project sadness and/or loneliness.  These things are present in the work to a smaller degree, but the main thing I wanted to get across with this ‘minor’ sound was essentially the incredible seriousness of purpose with which the Vikings must have faced their existence.” This seriousness of purpose is indeed abundantly found in Mr. Schlegel’s work, and is a worthy subject for listeners to delve into, especially as applied to moments of extreme adversity.

Movement 1: Allegro Vivace

The melody is swept downward as it begins, perhaps analogous to a wave descending on a Viking ship. Much of this movement consists of upward and downward melodic trajectories in close succession to one another, as if the ship is coming onto a wave and then sliding down it. Toward the end of the first minute, the melody becomes calmer, and reduces to only a few brass and string instruments, carrying forth a development in a deep, low minor. The Vikings now have time to think, though their contemplation is somber, in the midst of adversity. As more voices are added on and melodic complexity increases, the Vikings are perhaps realizing the magnitude and amount of obstacles in their way. But, toward the middle of the third minute, they experience an epifany of thought, which manifests itself in a brief transition of the melody into a major key. By fully examining what lies in store for them, they have become prepared for it, and now proceed onward with a grim but unshakeable confidence. The minor melody continues, only it is now higher and more prominent. The Vikings’ challenges are about to renew themselves, especially evident in the coming of a dramatic melodic escalation right after four minutes have gone by.  The melody’s tempo quickens, as the ship resolutely makes its way through row after row of waves. Percussion instruments beat rapidly in the background, as the Viking drummers signal to the rowers to exert their ultimate effort in overcoming this turbulence. After briefly calming down in the beginning of the seventh minute, the melody escalates even further toward its end, as new voices are added, especially a rapidly shifting high melody in the strings, which gives the impression of small waves pulsating up and down, perhaps sprinkling the ship with water. The melody slows toward the middle of the tenth minute, and only a low voice for brass and the high voice for strings remains, demonstrating the calming of the waves, even though there are still occasional light bursts amid a background full of apprehension. The twelfth and final minute presents a concluding wave that cascades downward to close the movement.

Movement 2: Andante

This is a calmer and more gradual movement, with a principal theme that is developed numerous times via a variety of innovative instrumental arrangements. The main voice of this theme proceeds in a low minor reserved for somber contemplation. However, simultaneously with it, Mr. Schlegel incorporates into the movement higher and often more rapid parts for brass and strings, perhaps to portray the Vikings examining the range of possibilities that their voyage might lead them to experience in the creation of their new lives. There is also a substantial presence of major parts in this movement, demonstrating the hope that the Vikings carry with them, despite the burdens and obstacles in their way. This gradual flow of deliberation is interspersed with more dramatic moments at the beginning of the movement and in the middle of the sixth minute, showing how the present challenges of the voyage compel the Vikings to address the more immediate turbulence before them. After a formidable escalation at the beginning of the eighth minute, the melody begins to fade away during the ninth, almost distancing the listener from the scene portrayed, and rendering him curious to know what will happen next.

Movement 3: Adagio

This movement begins softly, as alternating high and low voices for the winds carry it forward. As voices for the strings are added, Mr. Schlegel further develops the opening theme, so that the variety of this movement nevertheless relies on a certain core melody that all the parts share. This might be representative of the sense of purpose the Vikings all exhibit, however varied their individual attitudes and roles in this voyage might be. Perhaps the Vikings have decided to assess the condition of their ship and undertake work to repair the damage. While they are not, for the moment, placing their lives at risk in dangerous waters, their task nonetheless involves immense dedication and coordination of effort. Each of the variations on the core melody might be seen as the Vikings repairing a particular part of a ship. While each part is unique, it must also contribute to the ship’s overall design and facilitate efficient sailing. Hence, variety with a common goal characterizes this work. As it comes to a conclusion at the end of the sixth minute, the listener begins to hear the Viking drums sound once again, urging the ship onward, and not a moment too soon. Already in the seventh minute, a monumental string crescendo indicates a rising wave, and the ship must spring back into action. The eighth minute features a more streamlined and assertive version of the movement’s core theme, carried forward in a steady tempo and expanding to encompass an ever broader array of instruments as all of the ship’s systems are rendered operational. This continues until the tenth minute, when further crescendos and melodic escalations indicate that the Vikings are about to face their greatest challenge. The movement concludes with a brief respite, but the listener and the Vikings know that it will not last long.

Movement 4: Allegro Intrepido

Several loud minor chords foreshadow what is to come, as, in the middle of the first minute, the waves break out in full force, the string and brass melodies moving up and down rapidly, intertwining with each other and creating an additive effect. After this introduction to the turbulence, the second minute enters into a prominent, firmly directed, undaunted melody indicating the Vikings’ reaction to their circumstances. While the waves rise, trying to engulf it, the ship moves forward unwaveringly, speeding up along with the rhythm of the drums. Often, Mr. Schlegel integrates wavelike voices into the main “Viking” theme, showing that the ship will not let itself be engulfed by its environment, but will rather incorporate its environment into itself. Here, in this world of struggle, though they are challenged, the Vikings nonetheless manage to prosper and make themselves, not nature, into the focus of existence. Not once does their resolve falter; it is the waves that rise and recede before them, but the explorers’ course remains unaltered. Even as the waves intensify, they still become ever more a part of the main theme rather than its antagonist. The last seconds of the symfony are characterized by a triumfant drum roll, indicating that the Vikings have overcome their nemesis.

The heroic work of man in surmounting and taming the furies of nature is the basis for the advancement of civilization itself. Here, in Mr. Schlegel’s symfony, is an anthem to this endeavor, an encapsulation of the mindset and sense of life required to undertake this tremendous task in whatever one does. To bear, with unwavering fortitude, all the impediments one faces, and to ultimately transform them into advantages, is the lesson of the Vikings, a lesson which this symfony allows to penetrate into the deepest recesses of the human spirit.

G. Stolyarov II is a science fiction novelist, independent filosofical essayist, poet, amateur mathematician and composer, contributor to organizations such as Le Quebecois Libre, Enter Stage Right, the Autonomist, and Objective Medicine. Mr. Stolyarov is the Editor-in-Chief of The Rational Argumentator. He can be contacted at gennadystolyarovii@yahoo.com.

Christopher Schlegel is a musician and composer of Objectivist convictions. He is additionally a writer of short fiction and essays, and a contributor to The Rational Argumentator and its store. You can also visit his website (http://www.truthagainsttheworld.com) and contact him by e-mail.

If you are interested in purchasing a CD of Mr. Schlegel's Symphonies # 1 & 2, send a check or money order for $10.00 to:

Schlegel Entertainment
1995 Old State Route 76
 McKenzie, TN 38201

This TRA feature has been edited in accordance with TRA's Statement of Policy.

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Learn about Mr. Stolyarov's novel, Eden against the Colossus, here.

Read Mr. Stolyarov's comprehensive treatise, A Rational Cosmology, explicating such terms as the universe, matter, space, time, sound, light, life, consciousness, and volition, here.

Read Mr. Stolyarov's four-act play, Implied Consent, a futuristic intellectual drama on the sanctity of human life, here.

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