Mythology Symphony

for Full Orchestra

Stacy Garrop

Performing Ensemble: Orchestra
Duration: 43:00
Publisher: Theodore Presser Company
Print Status: Rental

Quick Overview

1. Becoming Medusa
Most of us are familiar with the legend of Medusa in which she is a hideous Gorgon with scales for skin, snakes for hair, and a gaze that turns to stone anyone who dares to look into her eyes. When we first encounter Medusa, she is usually on a deserted island with her two sisters, and Perseus has arrived to cut off Medusa's head. But what about Medusa's origins? With a little research, I unearthed several accounts of her original form. Some stories portray Medusa as being born a horrific creature; other stories show that Medusa was a human whose features were hideously transformed by the goddess Athena when she seduces, or is seduced by, the god Poseidon in Athena's temple. Most of these stories agree that Medusa was quite beautiful, and in some account, Medusa boasts that she is lovelier than Athena.

From these stories and more, I pieced together a version of the Medusa myth which serves as the premise for my tone poem, entitled Becoming Medusa. The piece is comprised of seven sections that are played continuously, labeled in the score as follows: "Terrible Medusa: Anguished, Fierce" introduces our protagonist in her hideous format. Then the piece moves back in time to "Lovely Medusa: Sensual, Alluring" in which she is depicted as a beautiful and somewhat vain woman who boasts of her loveliness to the goddess Athena. "Medusa Seduces Poseidon in Athena's Temple" is a lively dance in an irregular meter, during which Athena discovers the lovers. "Athena's Wrath" and "Athena Transforms Medusa" bring the piece to its tumultuous climax. After a grand pause, "Terrible Medusa: Shocked, Devastated" presents Medusa in all her monstrosity. Medusa's shock at her disfigurement eventually gives way to anger, and finally to a begrudging acceptance of her destiny. The piece concludes with "Resigned, Medusa Retreats into Exile."

Musically, Medusa is represented by a solo violin (the concertmaster). When she is lovely, she is accompanied by harp, and her music is very lyrical. But when Medusa is in her transformed state, dissonance surrounds her: strings and woodwinds represent the snakes on her head as they twist and turn around each other, while her piercing eyes are depicted as the discordant interval of a minor 2nd.

On a final note, I wanted the title of this piece to reflect a double meaning: it needed to present Medusa as a lovely woman, as well as the fact that she goes through a transformation. The word "becoming" lends itself very well to both tasks: in addition to its usual interpretation as a process of change, it also means to have an attractive appearance. Thus, I named the piece Becoming Medusa.

2. Penelope Waits
This movement depicts Penelope, the faithful wife of Odysseus, as she patiently waits twenty years for her husband's return from fighting the Trojan War.

3. The Lovely Sirens
The Sirens were sea nymphs, usually pictured to be part woman and part bird, who lived on a secluded island surrounded by rocks. Their enchanting song was all but irresistible to passing sailors, who were lured to their deaths as their ships were destroyed upon the rocks. The Lovely Sirens portrays three ideas: the Sirens' beautiful song, an unfortunate group of sailors whose course takes them near the island, and the danger that befalls the sailors. This danger is represented by the Morse code S.O.S. signal (three dots, three dashes, and three dots; represented musically by short and long rhythms). The S.O.S. signal gets increasingly more insistent and distressed as it becomes obvious that the sailors are smitten with the voices of the Sirens and are headed for their demise.

4. The Fates of Man
The three Sisters of Fate were minor goddesses who were personifications of man's inescapable destiny. Each Sister had a particular task: Klotho spinned the thread of life; Lakhesis measured the thread; and Atropos cut the thread. While a man's actions affected various aspects of his life, the actual length was predetermined. The Fates of Man depicts a man who realizes he is nearing the end of his life. He appeals to the three Sisters to give him control over his own destiny, but as they have already measured and cut his thread, they deny his request. The movement ends with the man slowly dying away.

5. Pandora Undone
This movement depicts Pandora as she opens a box that unleashes all evils into the world.

Additional Information

Composition Date 2007-2013
Orchestration 3 3 3 3 - 4 3 3 1; Timp. 3Perc. Hp. Pno. Str.
Premiere January 27th, 2015. Chicago College of Performing Arts Orchestra, conducted by Alondra de la Parra; Harris Theater for Music and Dance, Chicago, IL.


I. Becoming Medusa
II. Penelope Waits
III. The Lovely Sirens
IV. The Fates of Man
V. Pandora Undone

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