Commissioned by the Canonsburg Middle School Band, Canonsburg, PA, Paul Rush - Director
In Greek mythology, Prometheus is revered as a hero and savior who sacrificed his freedom to endure an eternity of suffering to steal fire from Mt. Olympus. The Titan, who’s name means “forethought,” was the creator of mankind (along with Epimetheus) and their champion in many ways. Extremely intelligent, Prometheus managed to escape the confrontation between the Gods and the Titans, who were eventually defeated and banished to an eternity in the depths of Tartarus, only to confront Zeus multiple times later, often resulting in the benefit of mankind.
In the story about the trick of Mecone (or Mekone), Prometheus tricks Zeus when the gods try to agree to a settlement of debts between what is owed to the Gods in sacrifice and what the humans may use for themselves. Prometheus slays a large ox and prepares two presentations, one of the bones glazed with glistening fat that looked appealing while hiding all of the meat and useful parts of the ox in the grotesque looking stomach of the animal. Zeus selects the former, leaving the mankind with useful elements, but after being deceived, Zeus hid fire from mankind, leaving them cold, unable to cook the food that was now left to them, and without light in the darkness. Prometheus, unable to bare the suffering of humankind, sneaks into Hephaestus’s workshop and conceals fire in a dried fennel stalk, returning fire to mankind.
As a result of being defied, Zeus orders his servants Force and Violence to capture Prometheus and orders Hephaestus to chain him to a rock on Mount Caucasus with unbreakable chains. There he was tormented every morning by an eagle that would eat his liver, which would regenerate each for the eagle to come to back each day. In order to be free, he could either tell Zeus who the mother of child is that would eventually dethrone him, or convince an immortal do die for him and have someone slay the eagle. Eventually, Chiron the Centaur sacrificed his life and Hercules killed the eagle, giving Prometheus his freedom after years of tortue.
Prometheus is a tone poem, telling the story of Prometheus's ascent of Mt. Olympus to steal fire from Hephaestus's forge and subsequent battle with Zeus where he then chained to Mount Caucasus. This piece is also one of my first attempts of using leitmotives. The two main characters, Zeus and Prometheus, each have their own themes representing them in the piece as they interact and the story progresses. These themes get represented in many ways either as fragments or variations depending upon what's happening at that current point within the story. Prometheus also attempts to the emerge the listener even deeper by using an Anvil or Break Drum to simulate the sound of Hephaestus's hammer and uses the sound of metal chains to aurally represent Prometheus being bound to the rock.
Prometheus is a challenging work, but one with many elements to create a unique experience for the players and listeners alike. It doesn't merely serve as a piece of music but acts as one of the old Greek story tellers like Hesiod or Aeschylus telling the tale of one of Greek mythology's greatest heroes.
Prometheus was commissioned by the Canonsburg Middle School Band in Canonsburg, PA under the direction of Paul Rush, and is set to premiere May 10th, 2018.