Project Phoenix

for violin, double bass, harp, clarinet, bassoon, trumpet, trombone, percussion, soprano and narrator

text by Diana Syder

commissioned by the Katherine A. Abelson Fund of the Lester Abelson Foundation

Project Phoenix was a scientific intitiative to detect extraterrestrial civilizations by listening for radio signals that were either being deliberately beamed our way, or were inadvertently transmitted from another planet.  My composition, Project Phoenix,  interprets Diana Syder’s cosmic musing as a series of musical fantasies celebrating the intersection of science and art and the human quest for life’s origin in the universe.  The allusions I make to the colorful and deep pondering text are whimsical and playful right up to the point where an imagined alien voice orates a chilling reminder of the human destruction that we have fostered on our own planet earth.      William Neil

“Is there life on other planets? Project Phoenix began as a jumble of thoughts, facts, images, and fragments of dialogue filling twenty untidy pages, completely unintelligible to anyone except me. Then I started editing, linking up ideas and pictures that seemed to go together and gradually sorting out my thoughts and discovering new ones. It’s always a challenge to find a structure that will accommodate scientific facts, flights of imaginations, argument, and speculation as well as the struggle to reach some new understanding. I struck two emotional highpoints: first, given the statistics, I’ve always been convinced there is loads of significant life out there, so it was a shock to glimpse what it would mean if we did ever know ourselves to be alone; secondly I was hit by the notion a of being a “source” in the universe, and I’m not claiming special status; we are all “sources.” And through it all I couldn’t get away from the bald facts that life does exist and that, me, you, William Neil are all part of it, which is mind-shudderingly wonderful.      Diana Syder

Chicago Pro Musica and guest artists:

Diana Syder
poet, Diana Syder
Carl Grapentine
Carl Grapentine, narrator
Barbara Ann Martin
Barbara Ann Martin, soprano

Audio from the premiere

The Last Clango in Taurus

Pluto the Wander

Excerpt from Map Score:




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