Fan-Created Music: "7th Son, Movement 1: Descent"

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I want you to meet Brandon Winrich, an undergraduate at the University of Rhode Island majoring in Music Composition and Computer science. Last July, Brandon emailed me and asked for permission to create a piece of orchestral music based on my 7th Son podcast novel trilogy. Flattered, I happily encouraged him to do so. And he did. He sent me the audio yesterday. This is so cool. This is sooooo cool.

Click the play button.

Here are some in-depth notes from the email I received yesterday, from Brandon (Warning: There are Book One spoilers):

7th Son, Movement 1: Decent had its world premiere on November 9th, 2008. Before the first rehearsal, I played [Descent's] prologue for everyone ... to set the mood, and hopefully get some of them interested in the novel. ...

7th Son, Movement 1: Descent is comprised of eight sections:

  • "The President of the United States is Dead.  He was murdered in the morning sunlight by a four year old boy." [0:14]
  • A Former Life [0:49]
  • Send in the Clones [1:38]
  • Descent / The Womb [2:23]
  • Contacting the Outside [3:28]
  • Following Alpha’s Trail / "I Comply" / Hacking the CDC [4:13]
  • Showdown at Folie à Deux [5:28]
  • "It's Never Over" [6:11]

The piece begins with "the chord," that musical interlude that can be heard between sections of the novel.  I asked a friend to help me figure it out, and its essentially a Gb Major chord, possibly with some added tones.

"The President of the United States is Dead" acts as a mourning funeral song for President Griffin.  The Trumpet plays a modified version of the beginning of "Purple" (the song by Ethic that served as the anthem for Book One), as church bells chime in the background.

While slightly out of order from the novel, musically it made more sense to put this section here.  "A Former Life" portrays the early life of John Michael Smith, before the car crash that brought him to the 7th Son facility.

"Send In The Clones" is a march-like section, depicting the Beta Clones being rounded up and taken to the 7th Son facility, as heard in the first chapter.  The melody that the trumpet is playing was created by assigning a note from an A harmonic minor scale to each Beta, based on their number and order of appearance (7, 1, 6, 5, 2, 3, 4; or John,  Michael, Kilroy 2.0, Father Thomas, Jonathan, Dr. Mike, and Jack).

"Descent" refers to the elevator plunge down, represented by a chaotic chromatic 7/8 measure as the Beta Clones plummet down towards "The Womb."  One of the concepts behind cloning is about breaking the rules.  So, in this section, I decided to break the rules of typical classical music.  The melodies have a constantly shifting tonal center, and feature many parallel fifths (which are usually frowned upon).

"Contacting the Outside" refers to the events of chapter 14/15, when the Betas are allowed brief phone called to the people they were dragged away from.  It's a happier moment (in the Lydian mode), almost the calm before the storm, which transitions to…

"Following Alpha’s Trail" depicts the efforts of the Jonathan, Jack, Kilroy 2.0, and John, as they work to find out what John Alpha is up to.  A literal chase is depicted between the 4-bar trombone melody, and the trumpet with a truncated 3-bar version of the same melody, the two instruments getting closer with each repetition.  Kilroy 2.0 calls upon his flock for assistance, and they respond with "I Comply" (represented by a 3 note repeated ostinato played by the xylophone).  Having caught up with Alpha's clues, Kilroy 2.0 hacks the CDC database.…

"Showdown at Folie à Deux" is certainly one of the most exciting things in Book One, and I tried to depict that in the music.  With a tempo of 150, this is the fastest section of the piece.  The meter occasionally changes from 3 to 4, as the trumpet plays an augmented version of the melody from "Send In the Clones" against a trombone ostinato.  The tempo slows down slightly and the music gets softer, now with the upper woodwinds playing chords, depicting Father Thomas' leap of faith (this subsection even ends with a plagal cadence, which is also called the 'amen cadence' due to its association with religious hymns).  The tempo quickly picks back up, modulates up a half step to add excitement, and briefly revisits the theme from the beginning of the section as the Beta Clones gain the upper hand…

"It's Never Over" serves almost as a coda to the movement, a slow finale after all of the excitement.  Mourning the loss of one of their own, the Betas realize that even though John Alpha may be dead, the adventures are just beginning.  The piece ends with a deceptive cadence (possible foreshadowing for Movement 2: Deceit, perhaps?), ending on "the chord" that we started with.

Credits:

  • Geri Muller: Flute
  • Theresa Procopio: Oboe
  • Brandon Winrich: Clarinet
  • Peter Gilli: Alto Saxophone
  • Joshua Sayer: Trumpet
  • Scott W. Benson II and Michael Ottaviano: Trombone
  • Charles Kalajian, Bobby Cavallaro, and Zach Friedland: Percussion
  • Stephen M. Grueb: Conductor

Back to J.C.

I nearly wept when I heard Brandon's piece; my arms were covered in goosebumps. The time he invested not only in researching my book (his synopsis is better than anything I could've written!), but also composing, organizing and preparing the piece for public performance must have been staggering. To me, this is nothing less than awesome. I am humbled, and starstruck, by Brandon's creation.

Thank you, Brandon, and to the team of talented performers you assembled to play 7th Son, Movement 1: Descent. If you choose to compose Movement 2: Deceit, it will most certainly have a home here.

--J.C.