Of the Backworldsmen

“What is good? All that heightens the feeling of power in man, the will to power, power itself. What is bad? All that is born of weakness. What is happiness? The feeling that power is growing, that resistance is overcome.” ~Friedrich Nietzsche

"You great star, what would your happiness be had you not those for whom you shine?"
“You great star, what would your happiness be had you not those for whom you shine?”

When I was a young teenager, much of my non-television entertainment came from my father’s record collection. There was the Percy Faith Orchestra, The Ray Conniff Singers, The Carpenters, a very funny record called Terribly Sophisticated Songs, The 1812 Overtures, and on and on. In other words, Dad was into music he found at garage sales or was given as a Christmas gift.

One album to which I was drawn instantly was the New York Philharmonic’s recording of Richard Strauss’ tone poem Thus Spake Zarathustra. The piece opens with one of the most familiar three-note motifs of the 20th century, popularized by the Stanley Kubric cinematic masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey. In addition to the amazingly complex nature of the music, I think that as a 12-year-old I was drawn to the compelling artwork on the album cover and the simple fact that the composer and I shared a first name. I cite this album as my short-lived inspiration to become a concert clarinetist.

But as familiar and bombastic as the opening trumpet, followed by the rolling tympani, can be, it doesn’t hold a candle to the rest of the piece, which is utterly complex and dynamic, and has, in my thoughts anyway, stood the test of time. I can listen to it today and it’s just as amazing as it was to me 35 years ago.

For years I have imagined how I might use this music in a short film. I had originally scripted this as a series of aerial clips, but I don’t fly any more, and even if I did, the steady cam and open door setup really requires a crew, not just me flying a 172. I decided instead to begin filming the sky, which I had done a few years ago, the result of which is Summoning the Muse (click to view). As with the new piece, the previous piece started with the music and the inspiration it offered, and led to the filming.

My new piece is named after the second movement of the Strauss tone poem, Of the Backworldsmen. It follows the line of the music fairly accurately, in an effort to take advantage of the interplay between the two. All the footage in this film was made with my Canon GL-1, and it was all shot here at our home in Byng, Oklahoma, over the past four months.

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