“THE CITY IN THE SEA”
INSTRUMENTS/VOICES: narrator, cello, piano
KEYWORDS: eerie, unsettling, melancholy
PREMIERE: October 27th, 2012 at Mount Auburn Cemetery for literary historian Rob Velella’s “A Visit With Edgar Allan Poe”.
DESCRIPTION: Musical setting of the Edgar Allan Poe poem, “The City in the Sea”. Commissioned by literary historian Rob Velella for his 10/27/12 performance, “A Visit With Edgar Allan Poe”.
PERFORMED BY: Rob Velella (narration), Nick Dinnerstein (cello), and Mary Bichner (piano).
* * * *
SYNESTHETIC ELEMENTS FOR “THE CITY IN THE SEA”
*The piece is in the key of A minor, a fiery red.
*[0:05-0:44]: The main theme of the piece, played first by the cello [0:05-0:22] and then by the piano [0:27-0:44] very prominently features the notes E and Eb in its melody line (medium blue and dark blue, respectively) representing the murky ocean, as well as foreshadowing the eventual sinking of the city at the end of the poem.
*[0:47-0:56]: The cello’s ascending melody line complements the narrator’s description of the “light from out the lurid sea” shining “up domes, up spires, up kingly halls, up fanes, up Babylon-like walls”, etc.
*[1:05-1:08]: For the line “The viol, the violet, and the vine”; the chord beneath the word violet is F (a brilliant purple), which then changes to Gm (a deep green) for the word “vine”. (NOTE: This didn’t quite line up in the studio recording, but you can hear it line up at 1:12 in this live version of the piece’s premiere from October 2012: http://youtu.be/zfOcmxpUSrI?t=73 )
*[2:01-2:18]: As the city sinks, the final version of the cello’s melody sinks along with the piano’s descending diminished chords.
*[2:20-2:29]: In the final moments of the piece, the piano sounds a peculiar combination of A, Ab, Bb, and Eb (dark red, fiery red, orange and deep blue), meant to represent the fires of hell engulfing the sea.
*[2:32]: The piece ends on A (fiery red when in the key of A minor), the lowest note on the piano, to signify the city’s disappearance into the abyss.