Leonardo Dreams Of Hid Flying Machine

1050 words - 4 pages

Charles Alan Sylvestri’s poem “Leonardo dreams of hid flying machine” is a dramatic story of hope and optimism that takes the listener on a great adventure into the great unknown. Leonardo functions as the agonist of the poem who is “tormented” by his need to fly and touch the sky. Finally, after much planning and determination Leonardo takes a great leap of faith with his flying machine and his dreams of flight are consummated!
In order to fully encapsulate Leonardo’s conquest of the almighty heavens it would only be fitting to have the text set to a full orchestra accompanied by a SATB choir. This is the only combination of instrumentation and vocals that will fully capture the piece’s dramatic story (save a Wagnarian music drama). A full orchestra is a glorious medium that can be used to accommodate the full range of emotions embodied in the poem because of the breadth of orchestral timbre. In parallel with the orchestra, a four-person choir is ideal for the lyrical expression of the poem due to the wide range of notes that can be sung by the soprano, the bass and everyone in between. The parts of the poem sung by the full choir would be done in an imitative polyphony texture utilizing malismas on the repeated line “Leonardo, Leonardo, viene á volare” to accentuate the fact that this line is a “siren-song” sung by “the very air itself.” However, the majority of the text would be sung by the tenor to give the piece a story telling quality, with the rest of the choir chiming in for the Italian parts. This will serve to emphasize the contrast between English and Italian that Sylvestri creates in his poem. It seems appropriate to have the orchestra and choir perform a through-composed setting with a change in music for each stanza. This is the best option because the poem tells the tale of Leonardo’s first flight from the moment he dreamt of a flying machine up to the moment of his first fateful leap sans repitition.
While a through-composed setting will serve to move the plot along, there are elements of repetition in the poem such as the phrase “Vieni á volare” that would be represented musically by a lone viola playing a Berliozian idée fixe. The idée fixe of the viola would triumph over the rest of the orchestra, eking out a longing tune that represents Leonardo’s dream of flight. This poem also lends itself quite nicely to dramatic word painting in many places. For example, in the second line of the poem, “Tormented by visions of flight and falling” the orchestra would crescendo to a high-pitched squeal on the word “flight” and decrescendo to a low drone on the word “falling”, effectively exaggerating the words through the music. Another opportunity for word painting also comes in the first stanza of the text when “master Leonardo imagines an engine to carry man up to the sun…” on the word “engine” the drums of the orchestra would triumph over the rest of the instruments giving the impression of a jet engine firing up for takeoff....

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