New Music Friday: Nordlys

The northern lights, or aurora borealis, are called Nordlys in Norwegian. The part of Norway above the Arctic Circle may be the best place to observe nature’s incredible light show. Science says auroras occur when charged particles ejected from the sun strike the earth’s atmosphere, ionizing gas molecules like a neon sign. But those who have witnessed the ethereal curtains of dancing light describe the experience as surreal, mystical, and very moving. This music evokes the aurora’s powerful otherworldly quality. The violins’ opening ostinato is the aurora itself, swirling in waves of dancing light. Upward-moving figures and shifting, shimmering modal harmonies that avoid conventional anchors point to the zenith. In a contrasting middle section, a traditional Norwegian tune in the cellos transitions into an energetic celestial dance in the upper strings punctuated by strong rhythms. The piece ends as it began with the dancing aurora.

About Nordlys

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The opening 8-note ostinato figure in the violins should be steady, flowing, and unaccented to convey the aurora’s ever-moving, shifting, unrelenting, ethereal quality. Make a series of surging, powerful crescendos in measures 9-10, again in measures 11-13, and as notated after that. The Norwegian melody in measures 34-42 should be highly expressive. The third motif at measure 43 is strongly punctuated with accents. When the 8-note ostinato returns at measure 59, it should again be flowing and unaccented.

About Marcia Stockton

Marcia Stockton’s published works are predominantly for string orchestra. She also arranges for composer/pianist Thomas Schoenberger. As a member of the mysterious Cicada 3301 group, she works to further their goal of a cultural Renaissance led by musicians, artists, and bards. Marcia’s original compositions range from quasi-Baroque to folk songs, spirituals, 20th century Americana, and impressionism. The pieces are always tonal, but some stretch comfort levels slightly with unusual modulations and jazz-influenced harmonies. She also composes sacred choral music. Marcia studied music theory at Swarthmore College (B.A. 1975) and pursued advanced cello study with two eminent Philadelphia Orchestra members. After a fruitful technical career achieving distinction as a Master Inventor at IBM, her full-time resumption of music in 2013 was a return to her original vocation. She was privileged to volunteer with the Carson Valley Sinfonia, a unique ensemble that ignites many music careers by allowing students to play alongside professionals and community members. Rehearsals and concerts of her pieces yielded valuable feedback from performers and audiences, enabling the creation of sophisticated and emotionally mature classical music targeted at developing string players’ capabilities.

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