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nine3 Libelulla
U P S I D E     d o w n s t a i r s    a cambridge comedy of manners
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"Dragonfly"    Music and lyrics by Cass von Braun, , with references to Matthew Arnold's "Gypsy Scholar."

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This is the penultimate song that I know is necessary to a complete telling of the story. The last song will be Miranda's song, but I've given that one no thought so far. The lyric for "Dragonfly" is here. The draft of the musical sketch I completed after one a.m. Sunday, January 26, 2013. It is obviously classical; considering the structure of the lyric, how could it be otherwise? It is full of the sprung rhythms of a Matthew Arnold poem with sections in 3/4 and 4/4 and also I am certain the odd measure here and there in 2/4. I haven't sorted all the meter issues yet. Having admitted this inadequacy I must also say it is by far the worst-sounding instrumental I've ever done. There is so much of the florid, like the romanticism of a Rachmaninoff 's compositions with their robust countermelodic, percussive fills, implied by the spaciousness created by Nick's frequent pausing, parsing his words, then barrelling on headlong full of passion and fury. I really could not attempt this with a "sketchy" approach. The confluence of a sudden great inspiration, mad rush of energy and lots of solitude would be ideal at this time : )

Perhaps there are some who would find the reprise's melody too far removed from the parent ever to call it a proper "reprise." But it does start out the same and has the same number of lines, so for now I am calling it a "reprise." I would like to spend a couple of days to discover whether that could improve the sketch enough to provide the basis of a vocal. If after that investment it continues to resist my efforts, I shall move on to Miranda's song in the interest of completing this work before hell freezes over (which, based on the present forecast, could happen any day).

If I show it in its current state, it would never convey the character's/my full intention unless by some miracle it fell on the ears of a master orchestrator. If this describes you, dear reader, and you would like to take a crack at it or just to listen with potentially helpful advice, please do not hesitate to get in touch.


The singer is Nick Libelulla ("Libelulla" means "Dragonfly" in Greek), the brilliant but impoverished student who has already been told he is to be the recipient of the Pappalapagapalous Prize, money he dearly needs if he is to continue his studies. However the university's quest to hire a celebrity professor ("our first million dollar professor") has resulted in other plans for Nick's prize. We learn it will instead be given as a lure to the new prospect -- apparently, even more insultingly, to the new professor's assistant so that the Great Man will not need to pay his assistant out of his own already very generous budget.

However, the winner is not the winner until it's awarded over dinner, and in this song Nick contemplates how he will be humiliated when he learns a new plaque is being ordered naming another as the prize's recipient. Nick, an ethnic Greek and proud as any of his ancestors ever were, tells Miranda and Fada that he will make like a dragonfly and buzz away rather than submit to being robbed of his prize.

Singing to his friends Fada and Miranda in the first section of the song, Nick expresses candidly the things he might wish to say to his mentor, Dean Don. But obviously he would never be so cruel to his beloved advisor -- accusing him of "vague resolves" and "self-serving schools" e.g.

"Dragonfly" marks the first song for which I consciously selected the mode before beginning the musical composition. I chose the Locrian, notoriously difficult from a melodic point of view. This mode is said to be not often used because it sounds inherently conflicted and full of tension, appropriate to this lyric. Yet the mode proves mysteriously able to shift between tenseness and the etherial. In the three and a half minute opening section, Locrian lends great musical support to Nick's disappointment, resentfulness and anger.

Surprisingly, when it comes to the reprise (which is the way Nick ultimately addresses Dean Don concerning their mutual predicament) Locrian easily accommodated a gentler, more lyrical and considerate expression of his point of view.

I should add that this lyric (and its singer, Nick) are inspired by, and directly reference, Matthew Arnold's "Gypsy Scholar."

Lyric by Cass von Braun , copyright 2013-14, all rights reserved

There's no earthly reason to stay
I can't give my soul away
Not for money
If they think they must cheat me, to beat me, defeat me
I will fly away from here
A dragonfly, that's what I am, free!
So swiftly through the air
Then suddenly out of nowhere
The irredescent sheen
A bulbous eye, ferocious, staring
As quickly to dematerialize again
Barely there, like a dream,
Lit by a spark from heaven!

Eluding you, almighty half-believers in your own self-serving schools,
Where acts need not comply with all those contracts, facts and rules,
Who never deeply felt, nor ever clearly willed,
With vague resolves mere conversation, not meant to be fulfilled;
Each year breeding new disappointments,
Bitter memories, new resentments
So you hesitate and falter life away,
How graciously will lose tomorrow the ground you took today
Only half wishing to unwish this lifeless, darkly mad, unhappy claim
Such forms of glory feel so much like servitude and shame,
Your fight is for fear it could end on this tone
A dusty legacy for your intellectual throne
Eternally the same as today’Äôs despair
The old paradigm, frozen in time, immobile in your cherished departmental chair

There is no earthly reason to stay
I can't give my soul away
Except to the sky

In dreams I have wings and I can fly, and things I can't as yet explain
Colors that are new, how life's a flowing through on a crystal chain
Should I not try all the purple up ahead as a dragonfly instead!
With fields and woods my freeway
Roaming my home in the wilderness
Doing my viewing remotely in glorious unclouded bliss
The world beneath my eye, with my microscope
Pursuing something true, an unextinguishable hope
Will rise from this contagion of existential strife
Just to be at home as a dragonfly, at the opposite pole of life -- survive!

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