The Great Fall

As we head into the fall and prepare for our next print issue, we thought we'd share a compilation of works that address "Fall" in all its varied meanings. Actually none of them represent the season, Autumn, although The Fall of the House of Usher by Philip Glass is definitely an appropriately spooky selection for the month of October. And so we'll start there:

Understandably it's difficult to find more than a short excerpt of the opera on YouTube, but this from the opening provides a glimpse of the excitement of the orchestral writing, which as a chamber ensemble of about 18 instruments also more than suitable for a student production (with three main vocal roles).

Other works listed here come from our collective musical/mental archive except for Schelle's work and the song by The Firm, which were found through various Internet searches related to our topic.  

It's not difficult to make the jump from Poe's spooky story to a setting of Al Capone's final days in prison where he suffered from mental illness due to untreated syphilis. "The End of Al Capone" by Michael Schelle is a monologue opera accompanied by chamber ensemble and was recently premiered at Butler University.

"The Fall of Constantinople" by Kamran Ince provides us with a musical interpretation of the fall of a city, which brought about the end of the Byzantine Empire when the Turks conquered the city in 1453.

"Bye-Bye Butterfly" (1965) by Pauline Oliveros is an iconic work in the realm of feminism in music. Borrowing from the familiar nursery rhyme, Oliveros turns the phrase to bid farewell to Madame Butterfly and other similar operatic roles that portray women as helpless victims with no other option but death. (from the YouTube post: It is a 2 channel tape composition made at the San Francisco Tape Music Center. It utilises 2 Hewlett Packard oscillators, 2 line amplifiers in cascade, a turntable with record and 2 tape recorders in a delay.)

"All the King's Horses," by the British band The Firm is from its second (and final album "Mean Business") borrows from another nursery rhyme. (Do I really need to spell out the lyrics for you to find the Great Fall?) The question that arose in my mind when I went searching for more information about the band was, How is it possible that such a successful premiere album was followed by only one other (this one) and that the band folded shortly after its release? Is it something about the interpretation of this or other songs on the album? Perhaps a phenomenally poor choice for the name of the band, if it intended to verge into this territory? Or did this in fact conclude what it had to say to the world?

And finally "Powder Her Face" by Thomas Ades sets the story of the Duchess of Argyll, She did in fact take a tumble, which some claims account for bizarre changes in behavior most notably her promiscuity. Racy photos of the Duchess were made public, which led to her divorce and financial ruin. Click here for a video excerpt. And no, the title isn't just a fashion statement.

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