“. . . When I wrote the ‘Lamentation for Atlantis’, almost thirty years ago, I had no specific images in mind; I was concerned only with emotional reactions, not explicit scenes; I wanted the music to convey a sense of mystery, of sadness-of overwhelming loss. I was not trying to paint a sound-portrait of ruined cities full of fish. But now something strange happens whenever I hear the Lento lugubre – as I am doing in my mind at this very moment.
“It begins at Bar 136, when the series of chords descending to the organ’s lowest register first meets the soprano’s wordless aria, rising higher and higher out of the depths . . . You know, of course, that I based that theme on the songs of the great whales, those mighty minstrels of the sea with whom we made peace too late, too late . . . I wrote it for Olga Kondrashin, and no one else could ever sing those passages without electronic backing. . .
“When the vocal line begins, it’s as if I’m seeing something that really exists. I’m standing in a great city square almost as large as St. Marks or St. Peters. All around are half-ruined buildings, like Greek temples, and overturned statues draped with seaweeds, green fronds waving slowly back and forth. Everything is partly covered by a thick layer of silt.
“The square seems empty at first; then I notice something – disturbing
. Don’t ask me why it’s always a surprise, why I’m always seeing it for the first time. . .
“There’s a low mound in the center of the square with a pattern of lines radiating from it. I wonder if they are ruined walls, partly buried in the silt. But the arrangement makes no sense; and then I see that the mound is pulsing
And a moment later I notice two huge, unblinking eyes staring out at me.
“That’s all; nothing happens. Nothing has happened here for six thousand years, since that night when the land barrier gave way and the sea poured in through the Pillars of Hercules.
“The Lento is my favorite movement, but I couldn’t end the symphony in such a mood of tragedy and despair. Hence the Finale, ‘Resurgence.’
“I know, of course, that Plato’s Atlantis never really existed. And for that very reason, it can never die. It will always be
an ideal-a dream of perfection-a goal to inspire men for all ages to come. So that’s why the symphony ends with a triumphant march into the future.
“I know that the popular interpretation of the march is a New Atlantis emerging from the waves. That’s rather too literal; to me the finale depicts the conquest of space. Once I’d found it and pinned it down, it took me months to get rid of that closing theme. Those damned fifteen notes were hammering away in my brain night and day. . .
“Now, the Lamentation
exists quite apart from me; it has taken on a life of its own. Even when Earth is gone, it will be speeding out toward the Andromeda Galaxy, driven by fifty thousand megawatts from the Deep Space transmitter in Tsiolkovski Crater.
“Someday, centuries or millennia hence, it will be captured – and understood.”
– Sergei Di Pietro (3411-3509) “