Raven is one of the more startling studio productions on the album, done in a Gothic pop music recording esthetic. Edgar Allen Poe's The Raven is one of the most powerful poems in American literature. There hasn't been any real musical usage of The Raven, except for a few exotic examples. So I did a little bit of nosing around into the material Poe provided, and I found a monograph on The Raven with Poe actually encouraging musicians to set his poetry to music.
The Raven was designed as a very formalistic poem, and Poe was very proud of its musical quality. I noticed some of the phrases had quotation marks around them, and thought that one either reads a poem in the head silently, or read it aloud. How do you make the difference between the phrases that are in quotations and those that aren't? I only use phrases that have quotations as if they're spoken aloud.
Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary, over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore.
some visitor. Only this and nothing more, tapping at my chamber door...
some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door.
friends have flown before.
Doubtless what it utters is its only stock and store.
Prophet, thing of evil! Prophet still if bird or devil!
Take thy beak from out my heart and take thy form from off my door!
the raven, never flitting, still is sitting
I decided to have the raven go off on several solos, since they're not said in words. I used the tarogato, a very loud instrument reputedly used by the Hungarians to scare the Turks, an instrument that still hasn't been domesticated. And with that being the sound of the raven, and using the incredible vocal tessitura of Paul Savior, we had the setting for a very powerful musical engagement of The Raven, I call it Raven to distinguish it from Poe's, The Raven.
A gong helps create the gothic feeling. The work was created for this album and only performed live afterwards. Luckily it works well in both situations. Other instruments that were used: clarinet, saxophone, trombone, string bass, bassoon, are all very mood-oriented instruments, and help, I think, to sound scary. This is as close as I will probably ever come to writing a piece that has any element of horror.
- Johnny Reinhard, April 1999
Johnny Reinhard at the Stereo Society (selected :
To Johnny Reinhard's home page (all links)
To Raven CD page
To Johnny's interview (1999)
A new interview (2005) with Johnny Reinhard, about the Universe Symphony
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