Morning Star Rising (Symphony No. 1)
For Orchestra (2002)
Steve Kornicki, Composer

Steve’s 16-minute orchestral composition, Morning Star Rising, conducted by Robert Ian Winstin with the Kiev Philharmonic, is now available on available on his Orchestral, Conceptual and Ensemble Music CD as well as from your favorite digital download site.

Program Notes/Description


Instrumentation


Quotes, Reviews and Radio Play


Program Notes/Description

Morning Star Rising was composed in Los Angeles, CA in 2002 and was inspired by the book, "Conversing with the Planets" by astronomer and anthropologist, Anthony Aveni. The book's subject is ancient people's "celestial mythology" and how their rituals, beliefs and practices shaped their understanding of the natural world. Considerable focus is on the Maya and the importance they placed on the worship and deification of the planet Venus, portrayed as the morning and evening star gods. See more about Dr. Anthony Aveni and his published works.

"For the Maya, the world was a complex and awesome place, alive with sacred power. The power was part of the landscape, of the fabric of space and time. The king acted as a transformer through whom, in ritual acts, the unspeakable power of the supernatural passed into the lives of mortal men and their works. The king ensured that the heavens would rotate in perpetuity through the rituals of sacrifice"
- Linda Schele, Mary Miller

"Heaven was not so far away in the eyes of these people (the Maya), who believed that individual, civic and social truths could be revealed by consulting with nature: the shifting of the wind, the arrival of the rain, the appearance of the stars" - Anthony Aveni

“The real payoff for a writer comes when he helps kindle the muse in another writer – and when that writer works in another medium the thrill is even greater – beautiful piece” – author Anthony Aveni to Steve Kornicki

The recording of Morning Star Rising was made possible by generous support from the Kornicki Family (Melissa, Ann, Victor), Lois and Thomas Madden, Diane Weaver, Angela Weaver, Herb and Linda Dankmyer and Dr. Rae Walker.

Musically, Morning Star Rising can be viewed as a symphonic narrative in 6 sections depicting an imaginary early morning ritual as practiced by the Maya. The piece is a culmination of orchestral ideas and concepts that I was developing from the early 1990's to the composition's completion in 2002. The compositional process and orchestration of the piece unfolded in an organic manner with the progression of musical elements presenting themselves in a developmental fashion. Thus, it seemed appropriate to make it my first symphony, although I don't relate it to the traditional concept of the symphony. The germinal ideas and thematic construction (especially the Lamentation and Procession and Prayer to the Sacred Star sections) for Morning Star Rising evolved from a piece written in 2000 for wordless women's chorus, percussion and electronic sounds. The gradually evolving tonality of the piece creates in the listener a suspended time frame effect through the use of extended durations of similar harmonic motion. The narrative mysticism and directly communicative orchestral textures of the composition are integral elements to the music’s effect. The programmatic scenario for the 6 sections of Morning Star Rising is as follows:

1. Lamentation (the Maya, a people who’s culture has seemingly disappeared but has been integrated into present day Mexican life) - the peoples' suffering and their need to implore the intervention of the gods - Winds and strings ebb and flow in freely sustained melodic patterns surrounded by varying lengths of silence portraying the cosmic views and deep-rooted connection to nature by the people. Later, harp and glockenspiel intone a steady pulse leading to the beginning of the dreamlike ritual. The tonality centers on an independent usage of the pitches of g minor, with occasional references to triadic configurations.

2. Procession and Prayer to the Sacred Star (returning to the past Maya in our imaginations and through their art and architecture) - in the pre-dawn darkness, the ceremony begins and the people proceed to their place of worship - Melodic percussion and pizzicato strings maintain the pulse while evolving thematic phrases are shared by groups within the orchestra invoking the "prayer". The harmony now alternates between c dorian and f mixolydian in 8 beat groups at a moderately paced tempo.

3. Sacrifice (the religious aspect of their lives including their sacrificial practices) - the priests perform their powerful ritual of offering and sacrifice to the gods - Full orchestra is utilized for a climactic exaltation, thematically constructed from structural variations of the previous movements.

4. Appearance of the Star (the Maya and their advanced astronomical and mathematical thought) - it is early morning and solemnity falls upon the people after the priests have finished performing their homage; the star makes its appearance to all - Sustained strings give a distant impression of the dawn sky while winds, percussion and harp perform overlapping ostinato figures that represent the surrounding landscape and quiet contemplation of the congregation. An atmospheric texture is established with continuing free usage of the harmonic modes utilized thus far.

5. Morning Dance (the imaginary Maya) - a group of ecstatic women begin a primal and orgiastic dance that soon leads to a throng of jubilant celebration and rapture that is abruptly ended by the threatening decree of the priests - A driving, percussive section that reaches a climax of savage, accented orchestral chords along with pounding timpani. The music now in a tonality of 3 flats, returns to the alternating 2-part modal progression of the Procession movement with greater emphasis placed on rhythmic syncopation.

6. Adoration of the Earth (the future of the Maya and their role in history) - a representation of the ancients' awe of the power of the universe with the Earth acting as a witness to the continual cycle of humanity's reverence to her creations - A flute solo leads to slow pulsing harp chord-clusters. Sustained tones in an expansive Eb minor mode rise and fall against pizzicato strings creating an ethereal mosaic of sound eventually giving way to a final dissipating chord in woodwinds and horns.


Instrumentation

Piccolo, 2 Flutes, 2 Oboes, 2 Clarinets in Bb, Bass Clarinet, 2 Bassoons, 4 Horns in F, 2 Trumpets in Bb, 2 Tenor Trombones, Bass Trombone, Tuba, Timpani, Percussion (4)*, Harp, Strings

*Percussion 1: Glockenspiel, Vibraphone, Crotales
Percussion 2: Tubular Bells, Marimba
Percussion 3: Crash Cymbals, Tenor Drum, Small Tam-Tam
Percussion 4: Bass Drum, Triangle, Large Tam-Tam, Suspended Tambourine, Suspended Cymbal, Thunder Sheet

Score in C
Piccolo sounds one octave higher than notated
Basses sound one octave lower than notated

c. 16 minutes


Quotes and Reviews

"With soft colors and atmospheric harmonies, [Kornicki's Morning Star Rising] is an ambitious tone
poem depicting the topic of the Mayan relationship to celestial mythology." - Andrew Druckenbrod, Pittsburgh Post Gazette

"This 15-minute tone poem for orchestra incorporates echoes of Hovhaness and Holst, along with some slight minimalist elements, to create a very captivating sound. The piece strikes me as quite unique and powerful." - Rob Grano, Musician & Writer, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

"The "program" of the morning star rising extends to touches of splendor, but above all there is a transparency here, as if at this time of day above all there is transparency between our world and another; a transparency that diminishes with, I suppose, the brightening of our day, but not with a suggestion of tragedy but rather of hope." - Dale J. Nelson, Associate Professor of Liberal Arts, Mayville State University, North Dakota

Radio Play

WPRB, Princeton, NJ "Classical Discoveries" (2009)
WTJU, Charlottesville, VA (2007)
WPRB, Princeton, NJ (2007)
WCMU, NPR Michigan (2007)
WMUH, Allentown, PA (2005)
Contemporary Classical Internet Radio (2005)
WQED, Pittsburgh PA (2005)
WPRB, Princeton NJ (2005)
KGNU, Boulder & Denver CO (2005)
KLCC NPR, Eugene OR

 

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