March 4th, 2011

eyes black and white

Triumph Theme for Halley's Fifth

In Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand tells us of a composer named Halley, whose Fifth Piano Concerto she describes thus:

It was a symphony of triumph. The notes flowed up, they spoke of rising and they were the rising itself, they were the essence and the form of upward motion, they seemed to embody every human act and thought that had ascent as its motive. It was a sunburst of sound, breaking out of hiding and spreading open. It had the freedom of release and the tension of purpose. It swept space clean, and left nothing but the joy of an unobstructed effort. Only a faint echo within the sounds spoke of that from which the music had escaped, but spoke in laughing astonishment at the discovery that there was no ugliness or pain, and there never had had to be. It was the song of an immense deliverance.

As I was reading the novel, back in the Summer of 2001, this description inspired me the theme below, to be played by various brass instruments as the opening for a Piano Concerto. As usual, you may read of print the PDF, view or edit the Lilypond source or listen to a nuance-less generated MIDI file.

NB: There is a lot of buzz around the upcoming movie Atlas Shrugged: Part I. The preview I saw had good elements and not so good; all in all, it looked like a B+ movie, though considering what takes place of an A movie these days, it might still do better than some, which is not bad especially considering the cut rate production they had to do with. Moreover, by having elements of both B movies and A movies, it might be true to the original, which can be both great beyond anything else at its best, and a bit lacking in some respect. Many people who saw the movie actually liked it. I reserve my judgment for when I see it.

Having tried something as simple as translating a song from one language to the other, I can tell why it's rare that a monument of literature is satisfactorily adapted to a different medium: because it's damn hard. That the original be imperfect is actually good in that it gives more leeway for the adaptation to improve in some ways, as much as it necessarily has to sacrifice in other ways, or possibly even more, as compared to an overly perfect original all the subtle constraints of which you couldn't transpose. We'll see.