Satan Image 3

Drei Satanischen Skizze (Three Satanic Sketches) were composed during the week of 21 August 2005 in rapid succession and dedicated to Arnold Schoenberg, who had recently been the subject of considerable discussion among members of the Delian Society. Ford, a strong advocate of tonal music, believed that music similar in character and quality to the atonal piano pieces of Schoenberg's Opus 19 could be successfully improvised, and the Satanischen Skizze were intended to support his position. Although he originally intended to name the pieces "Morgenlied," "Mittaglied," and "Abendlied," as he was editing them he discovered their diabolical subtext, which evidently resulted from his having read earlier that same year several literary classics in which Satan figures prominently: Marlowe's Doctor Faustus, Milton's Paradise Lost, and Goethe's Faust. (Ford also acknowledges the influence of Thomas Mann's Doktor Faustus, whose central character is a composer of atonal music.)

These experimental pieces authored by a primarily tonal composer collectively support another of Ford's aesthetic theories: by giving atonal music an appropriate context—in this case by providing suggestive titles and epigrams—and by introducing readily apparent repetitive structures analogous to the words and phrases of spoken language and comparable semantic elements in tonal musical scores, it is possible to enhance both the comprehensibility and enjoyment of non-tonal musical idioms.

"Peccatum Originale" (originally "Morgenlied") was the first piece to be completed, and is also a virtually literal transcription of an improvisation Ford recorded through MIDI and exported to Finale for typesetting. Although the piece sounds atonal, close analysis reveals a strong tendency towards the key of F Minor. It evokes not so much the image of Satan as it does his influence on Eve as she reaches for and eats of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, an act of disobedience that leads directly to profound feelings of shame and dejection.

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Last updated April 25, 2007
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