Satan Image 2

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.

"Die Schlange," first envisioned as an "Abendlied" (cf. Chopin's "Berceuse" and Nocturnes), features an ostinato bass—actually a twelve-tone row—whose repetition evokes the writhing coils of the Evil One in the guise of a serpent. The right-hand part is based entirely on another closely related twelve-tone row that is variously subjected to inversion, retrograde, and retrograde inversion, suggesting all manner of fiendish guile and artifice.

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Last updated April 25, 2007
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© Copyright 2007 by Joseph Dillon Ford