GODSPEED! A DEEPER Dive for STORMAficionados, Family, Colleagues & Friends
Mahler said, “If a Composer could say what he had to say in words, he would not bother trying to say it in Music.”
Prompted by a recent post from a friend in España, let’s take a deep dive into the first piece on the Album he mentioned, STORMWORKS Chapter 3: WAIT of the WORLD. Let’s see what’s happening in this one piece of Music called, “Godspeed!”
I owe this explanation to Commissioner Bill Pritchett & the Muncie CHS Musicians, Maurice Hamers & The Marine Band of the Royal Netherlands Navy, the Musicians from The Vienna Brass Connection, the Phantom Regiment, the many 100s of worldwide ensembles that have rendered it since 1998, and Meredith Hudson who has listened to this one work EACH morning for the past 1741 days! (as of today and still counting!)
Meaningful Art has many layers. There is the visceral, the internal emotional layer, the micro-macro architectural, the biographical, the artwork (which I did myself), and the Score Notes, (the supposed words about the Music), to name only a few. There are more.
Let’s look at the Score Notes from “Godspeed!” (edited from the Technical & Musical aspects.)
#855 at 5:55 by © Stephen Melillo IGNA 10 May 1998
Commissioned by The Muncie Central High School Symphonic Band, Mr. Bill Pritchett, Conductor
Suggested tempi produces the proper inner architecture of the piece, and allows the players to move through otherwise long-winded passages with greater ease. For those fascinated by such matters, “Godspeed” is formed in the Fibonacci Series. There are 33-meter changes, and in this work, the real-timing of 3:33 happens at m78.... the “golden mean”.
Let’s talk about 33-meter changes. There are other writers in the band world who decided that they too would write multi-meter works and actually count up the meter changes in their score notes. Okay. Perhaps they think it’s some sort of contest, but they’ve missed the point. There are 33-meter changes in GOD-speed because that was the age when Jesus was Crucified. In other words, in the coded message of just one layer of Mathematics, I am implying the real reason for this piece. It is a Prayer, as are all of my works. This is why the Silent Language of the Mathematics (the architecture) is so important and indeed why ALL of the STORMWORKS Music, at the micro and macroscopic levels, and across the Chapters, is devised in the Fibonacci Series.
Imitators, and there have been many, imitate the least significant elements of the Composition. Imagine trying to recreate The Cathedral of Notre Dame by gathering up the concrete.
Actual Score Notes: There is no better way to express the Music of this work than to allow you to read a letter sent to me by Mr. Pritchett. His love has inspired this work.
“I haven’t really had a chance to put this into words, but this is what I want to say. Every morning I marvel at how lucky I am to stand in front of the kids I have. It is really a pleasure for me to have the opportunity to conduct a high school band of this quality. I’ve worked with a college band and sure, the group is better, but not necessarily better for me! It’s hard to explain, except to say that I really love the kids at Muncie Central, and that I have loved working with them for the last 17 years. We have the kind of kids that aren’t afraid to roll up their sleeves and get dirty... sweat... work. I want them to feel a sense of ownership in this work. The notes they play won’t last nearly as long as this composition will last. All of these kids should feel as if they were a part of something meaningful. Can you help me put this into words?”
Bill... I just did.
And now, let me share something with you, my friends. This is not for the Program Notes. It’s just between me and all of you. Ever since high school, I’ve signed my many letters, “Godspeed!... Sincerely, Stephen Melillo”. People used to laugh at me for signing this way! I still don’t know why. Now, I sign Music, my most personal of letters, in the same fashion.
After today, I shall never write that word again without hearing it as Music!
Godspeed was written on 10 May 1998. On that day, my Symphony # Numberless premiered. Dimitri Tiomkin and Max Steiner were born. I love these souls, composers of great and innocent Giving. My offering is small, but it comes to you, hands outstretched, in the same manner, implicated by Mr. Pritchett’s beautiful words.
Within its Time-compressed boundaries of 5:55, much happens. There is youthful exhilaration, the flight of an inviolable spirit, hectic confusion, and innocent zeal. Amidst the flurry and flash, comes a reverent prayer and an ode to that which is forever quiet and most still. There is the confident assertion of ideals and an ever-abiding vow to take on Life’s challenges. There is Hope and daring, introspection and sorrow. Fun is married to Courage, Darkness is overwhelmed by Light. And in its final hour, it is the indomitable will of the forever stalwart that rises in victorious Triumph!
While possible to write notation, Music is forever left to the un-capturable center of our Humanity. That Music is for you to find, for you to deliver and enjoy as you offer it to others.
The pseudo-professionals... whom I sometimes call “the mUSIC mASTERS”… would be fatigued by such a piece, imposed upon by such demands to Give! THAT is what Mr. Pritchett means when he says, “I’ve worked with a college band and sure, the group is better, but not necessarily better for me.” He means that you guys have the Heart and the Soul to make this Music. For that reason, I am honoured to have been asked to write this piece. It is for you.
Let’s take a Deeper Look:
I once heard someone introduce “Godspeed!” as, “a simple ABA form piece”. Wow. This is one of the reasons I say, “Is it any wonder that small minds should see smallness in things?”
No mention of the Fibonacci form? No mention of the multi-metered, harmonized-stacked Fugue, perhaps the first of its kind in our band world?
When the then US NAVY Band commissioned “Honor, Courage, Commitment”, in 1996, I added “Godspeed!” as an optional 3rd movement in 1998. During a Midwest concert of the then US NAVY Band, I sat next to Maurice Hamers, then Major Maurice Hamers, Conductor of the Marine Band of the Royal Netherlands Navy.
The new piece wasn't played. Maurice turned to me and said emphatically, “WE WILL PLAY THIS MUSIC!”
That led to the Commissioning of “WAIT of the WORLD” by the Marine Band of The Royal Netherlands Navy, and then the recording of the Album also entitled, “WAIT of the WORLD”, the program of which follows the Ascent of Man from the beginning to the end of the Bible. (This is not spelled out in the liner notes.)
In the Beginning
The Chosen (aka Time to Take back the Knights)
The Speech of Angels
Wait of the World (Symphony III)
In 13 movements (Fibonacci), we experience one interconnected Story in Music.
The W’s in the Title (and all Stormworks Chapter titles) come from the Star of David. The Star of David? Yes, more of the coded message, even in the titles. The W is composed of 3 triangles, one ascending, and the other 2 ascending. The symbolism of the Star of David is that of God coming to Man and Man going to God.
Perhaps over a video interview, and/or pizza, I can explain how the Harmonic Language and Orchestration of the Music ALSO come from the Star of David.
The piece, "WAIT of the WORLD” is replete with all sorts of Mathematics from the Great Pyramids at Giza to the Bible. A 16-year-old from Rome did an analysis of it once. He was very close!
The point is this...
There is so much more to the Music. It goes as deep as YOU want it to go. I’m a phone call away. Great Conductors take care of the immediate and visceral, and then somehow always work the ensemble into the Heart and Substance, even if left unspoken.
Another great piece for this kind of exploration into Composition is “Escape from Plato’s Cave” or “The First & the Last”, which was the subject of a very fine University Conductor’s doctoral thesis… but I leave the Wonder and Beauty and True Depths of the Music to those with great Love and Wonder in their Hearts.