Prince Prospero’s Party
- Natasha Barrett
- Year of composition: 2002
- Duration: 16:05
- Instrumentation: stereo fixed medium
- Commission: Third Practice Electroacoustic Music Festival, Modlin Centre for the Arts
Prince Prospero’s Party could be regarded as a ‘sonifi cation’ of Edgar Allan Poe’s short story The Mask of the Red Death. The music follows closely the events and evocations found within Poe’s text, and is my most narrative work to date. The structure unfolds through the seven rooms of Prince Prospero’s chambers and the revellers they contain, and the listener is shaken by the increasingly terrible chimes of the great ebony clock. Although the story follows a path of inevitable doom and gloom, it has an overriding feature: the capacity to evoke an amazingly surreal, multi-faceted space within which the drama is placed. Prince Prospero and many of his “light-hearted” friends lock themselves inside the Prince’s castellated abbey in an attempt to avoid the ’Red Death’. After six months the Prince holds a masquerade ball, for which the setting is the seven, irregularly disposed rooms of his imperial suite. The Prince’s bizarre taste has each room decorated, from top to bottom, with a different colour, and stained-glass gothic windows whose colour varies in accordance with the interior. Opposite each window a heavy tripod bares a ‘blazier of fire that projects its rays through the tinted glass… and produced a multitude of gaudy and fantastic appearances’. The last room is decorated in black, but with scarlet glass windows — ‘ghastly in the extreme’, and in this room stands the great ebony clock. Every time the clock chimes, the revellers are filled with fear. As the party progresses, a previously unnoticed masked figure resembling a stiffened corpse is present. With the strike of midnight the Prince demands, «who dares insult us with this blasphemous mockery?…». and the presence of the Red Death is clear.
Prince Prospero’s Party was commissioned by the Third Practice Electroacoustic Music Festival and the Modlin Centre for the Arts (Richmond, Virgina, USA) in 2002.
- November 2, 2002, 3P02 Third Practice Electroacoustic Music Festival: Concert 7, Modlin Centre for the Arts, Richmond (Virginia, USA)