Encounter at Agapolis

Performed by the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Gerard Schwarz

View the score

The Forbidden Forest by Renee Reno

The Forbidden Forest by Renée Reno

When my daughters were very young, often we would find ourselves waiting in the car for my wife as she went into the grocery store. During these times, I would attempt to entertain them by making up stories. Sometimes I would stumble upon an idea that my daughters really liked. Later, when we found ourselves in need of another story, they would remember one of my previous tales and ask me to repeat it, which would require me to try to reconstruct the details from memory.

One story, which they asked for often, involved two children who disobeyed their parents’ instructions to stay out of the mysterious and dangerous wooded area beyond their backyard. Having ventured into this “forbidden forest,” they were swept into a magical whirlwind that took them to another world called Agapolis. There they met a strange creature, whose name I don’t remember,  who told them about the city and the resident gardener who had special powers.

About the same time frame I had been telling this story, I began composing a piece for large orchestra for a recording project by the Seattle Symphony Orchestra. Since the story of Agapolis was on my mind, it seemed to inspire  the general mood of the opening of the piece…

The slow introduction, suggests the mystery of the forbidden woods with its foreboding opening bass:

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Foreboding MotiveAs the children enter, they hear echoes  coming from the trees:

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Echo MotiveA sudden increase in tempo and intensity depicts the whirlwind that sweeps them into Agapolis. The music stops suddenly as the children arrive in the new world and begin their adventure:

 

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Adventure Motive

Since it is virtually impossible to tell a descriptive story musically without some type of narration or program note,  I abandoned the storyline once the children entered Agapolis, and allowed these three musical ideas (or motives) to take their own course.

The entire piece (about eight minutes long) grows out of these motives (Foreboding, Echo and Adventure), each of which is derived from a melodic minor scale.*  At the time of publication, I discarded the original title, Encounter at Agapolis, in favor of one that described the nature of the piece: Simple Motives in Minor Modes. Nevertheless, the original inspiration is from the story.

*If you’re so inclined to check into this, the first two motives as they appear here are from the F minor melodic minor scale, the third from the A minor melodic scale. The first motive is also a part of the octatonic scale, and there are three pivotal sections that use this scale. However, the idea was derived from the melodic minor.

3 Responses to Encounter at Agapolis

  1. Tom Murphy says:

    Dr. Reno,
    I really like this piece!! And how it came about is a pretty cool story. Do you happen to have a score in pdf i could look at. Thanks for sharing. I hope you are having a relaxing summer. See you soon,
    Tom Murphy

  2. This score would be perfect for a Disney Adventure Film -for ALL!!!!
    I loved reading about its genesis! How blessed those two daughters are to
    have had a dad who shared how exciting the human mind can be! Imagination
    and curiosity are two of the most essential ingredients for those who will grow
    into the people they were designed to be and become the positive contributors
    to all of life.

    Thank you for sharing so much with everyone!!

    -Andrea Marsavonian