As soon as I finished the libretto (working copy), I set to work on the outline. I did most of the work and writing in a word document. Sometimes I use a notebook for brainstorming, but I grew up with computers and it’s usually easier for me to do my planning in a medium where I can erase faster as I can change my mind. I can also type much faster than I can write.
These were my goals for the outline:
- Have a diverse set of musical styles and mood
- Create moments of musical symmetry in the overall structure
- Choose styles/pieces that are appropriate for ballet and appealing to a choreographer
I didn’t have any special formulas for deciding which style or piece would be best for each event. I picked pieces, or styles that felt appropriate for the mood, atmosphere, or scene. The farewell moment in Act II between Aiyanna, Ezra, and Clemence felt very appropriate for a pas de trois. For example, No. 16 – “Waltz” happens during a celebration between the tribespeople and the villagers. I had initially considered setting this scene to “incidental music” to set the mood for an on-stage depiction of a feast, but I randomly envisioned everyone dancing a waltz together, the centerpiece of which would be the feast-table. Perhaps the leads are sat at the table and join the dance at its climax. I won’t say I fell in love with the idea, but it seems more interesting than my original idea. Who’s to say it won’t revert to incidental music?
Me. I get to say that stuff. It won’t revert to incidental music. It’s a waltz, now and forever.
The writing of this outline, and even this post, lead my to a quasi-realization (which is exactly what I hoped would happen when I began this blog):
The key to composition is the balance of intuition and technique.
Significant composers seem to have a strong intuition for what will ultimately sound best, even when it goes against conventional wisdom, e.g., Copland’s use of open fifths, Stravinsky’s block structures, everything Miles Davis did, etc. But they always manage to balance their intuition with technique. Copland’s applied his open fifths with a masterful knowledge of timbres and orchestration. Stravinsky’s block structures are bolstered by an internally consistent harmonic language. Miles Davis’ use of modes was in support of well-constructed melodies.
I’m not sure how good my intuition is, but I know I need to improve my technique.
Anyway, without further discussion, here’s the working version of the outline. It may change as I begin the composition process, just like the libretto. Also, I don’t know why copy and paste changed the formatting but it did. Don’t let it bother you.
Ritual and Sacrifice – an unexplained portrayal of Aiyanna’s sacrifice. To happen before the ballet proper. 10′
Act I – Summer
Scene I (Field)
No. 1: Parade – in which the villagers sow their fields; mood – optimistic, pleasant; G myx/D dorian? Acoustic guitar (hit open strings w/ dowel rods), 5’
No. 2: Enter Aiyanna – the indigenous girl stumbles upon the villagers, wounded and in need of help, she collapses; Aiyanna’s theme (xylophones), solo for Aiyanna, 2’
No. 3: Pas de Deux – Clemence rushes to Aiyanna’s aid; Clemence’s theme; 3’
No. 4: March – Ezra and Clemence “carry” Aiyanna to their home; the villagers object and try to interfere; march? 2′
Scene Change – No. 5: Nightfall (Incidental music) 3′ – 5′
Scene 2 (Town Center/Home)
No. 6: Herald – ominous, hints of Heka’atikwe’s sound pallet. 1.5′
No. 7: Enter Heka’atikwe – Heka’atikwe appears. 4′
No. 8: Ezra Versus – Ezra defends against Heka’atikwe who has come to retrieve his escaped sacrifice, Clemence and Aiyanna flee; mixture of Ezra’s and Heka’atikwe’s themes; intense. 2′
No. 9: Parade II – Clemence and Aiyanna flee to the center of town (same set), the villagers come to their aid and form a protective line around them; optimistic. 3′
No. 10: Enter Heka’atikwe II – Heka’atikwe appears and terrorizes the villagers, who abandon their defense. 3′
No. 11: Pas de Trois – Clemence stands between Aiyanna and Heka’atikwe. 5′
No. 12: Ezra Versus – Ezra reappears and repels Heka’atikwe fire. 2′
No. 13: Finale I – Ezra, Clemence, and Aiyanna embrace, surrounded by the villagers, finally safe. 3′
Act II – Fall
Scene I (Town center/Home)
No. 14: Enter Kowané – Kowané and his companions, from Aiyanna’s village, arrive searching for the kidnapped girl; Don’t be stereotypical!! 5′
No. 15: Reunion – Aiyanna is reunited with her tribespeople and tells them of all that has passed, including introducing them to Ezra and Clemence. 3′
No. 16: Waltz – They celebrate Aiyanna’s safety and the villager’s goodwill with a feast. 5′ – 6′
No. 17: Totem Ritual – Kowané and his companions install a totem in the center of a town and perform a ritual to protect the village and keep Heka’atikwe at bay; drums. 6′ – 7′
No. 18: Pas de Trois – As the tribespeople prepare to depart, Aiyanna embraces Clemence and Ezra. She gives them parting gifts; to Clemence her necklace; to Ezra she gives Kowané medicine staff. 4′
No. 19: Finale II – the tribespeople depart, followed by the villagers, leaving Ezra and Clemence alone. 3′ or less
Act III – Winter
Scene I (Town Center/Home)
No. 20: Entr’acte: “The Storm” – A terrible winter storm is howling and screaming send the villagers fleeing to their homes; wind machine. 4′
No. 21: Pas de Deux – Ezra and Clemence are sheltered in their home, reminiscing over Aiyanna’s gifts and lamenting their childless home; no one notices as the storm shatters the totem; combination of Ezra and Clemence’s themes. 5′
No. 22: Enter Heka’atiwke III – Heka’atikwe appears to terrorize the village, he lays waste to the village and attacks every single one of the villagers; heavier version of Heka’atiwke’s theme. 8′
No. 23: Ezra Versus II – Heka’atikwe finally comes to the home of Ezra and Clemence; Ezra tries to repel Heka’atiwke with fire again but Heka’atiwke summons a strong blast of wind. The torch is extinguished, leaving the stage in darkness, along with Ezra and Clemence’s fate. 4′
Act IV – Spring
Scene I – (Town Center/Home)
No. 24: Enter Kowané and Aiyanna – Kowané and Aiyanna return to the village to visit Ezra and Clemence only to find everything in ruins. 5′
No. 24: False Waltz “The Shadow Waltz” – the villagers shamble aimlessly around the village, shadowed by dark, leafy, shrouds; 7/8 version of the Waltz from Act II (2 + 3+ 2). 3′
No. 25: Pas de Trois – Kowané is ready to flee the cursed village, but Aiyanna recognizes Ezra and Clemence (by the gifts she gave them); ends with Aiyanna embracing them which returns them from their cursed state; and altered version of the Pas de Trois from Act II. 7′ – 10′
No. 26: Finale III – Kowané, Aiyanna, Ezra, and Clemence depart, happily reunited, although the village is lost. 4′ – 5′
That’s it. If nothing changes then that is a list of every composition I need to write to complete this ballet, along with approximate times. It’s a lot of music. If each piece is as long as I’ve estimated, then it’ll come at around 110 minutes of music. I was aiming for 90 from the beginning, so I’m not sure what will happen with the extra 20 minutes. I’ll probably try to tighten everything down once I get going, and pull that number back down to at most 100 minutes of music. But who can really say what the final length will be?
Me. I can say that.