Prometheus (grade 5)

Prometheus was commissioned by the McHenry County (IL) Honors Band and premiered by that ensemble on January 25, 2020. It was a special opportunity for me to write for this ensemble, because it was, in a sense, returning to my roots. I began my teaching career at Cary-Grove High School, where one of my duties included hosting the McHenry County Honors Band at my school. The commission, therefore, was a real honor and I was excited to have the chance to write a piece that I hoped would be both significant and meaningful.

Prometheus is a Titan from Greek Mythology who is primarily known for stealing fire from the gods and giving it to mankind, thereby advancing civilization. He is punished for this deed by Zeus himself, who sentences him to be chained eternally to a rock. Each day an eagle descends to eat Prometheus’ liver and overnight his liver regenerates, only to be eaten again the next day. Eventually, Prometheus is rescued from this tortuous existence by the god Heracles. There seems to me to be something universal about Prometheus’ struggle to do what is right, his punishment for his efforts, and his ultimate redemption.

My compositional approach to the piece grew from the famous Mystic Chord of Alexander Scriabin, a chord which was used in his work, Prometheus: Poem of Fire, and which has, therefore, also come to be known as the Prometheus chord. This seemed like ideal pitch material to me. The Mystic Chord is traditionally presented as a chord built on ascending fourths of various types: C, F#, Bb, E, A, D. I chose to use this collection of pitches as a scale and each section of the piece is a mode of that scale beginning on each succeeding tone of the original chord. The major sections of the work are: Introduction, Sacrifice (Stealing Fire), Hymn of Thanks, Punishment (Chained to the Rock), Dance of Perseverance, Freedom (Heracles rescues Prometheus), and Redemption.  

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