Time, Tension, and Desire in Scriabin’s The Poem of Ecstasy
There is an iconic moment in the last few minutes of Scriabin’s The Poem of Ecstasy that never ceases to amaze me. It is the point at which the low bells and organ appear, shrouded by the whole orchestra playing tremolo’s and trills—a truly majestic, energetic, and triumphant musical scene. Why and how does
it have such power? How did Scriabin generate this feeling of “ecstasy?”
Examining them from a distance (as a listener or analyst), these questions may bring straightforward answers such as extreme chromaticism, specific harmonic progressions, instrumentation and playing techniques, dynamics, etc. However, performing this work (in this case, playing a piano reduction
of the symphonic poem), I arrive at different, more ambiguous answers.
Playing this work gave me a different perspective on how it is constructed and how it should sound. As a performer, time works differently. I feel the tension not only in my mind but in my whole body. All those beautiful desire-filled melodies are leading me through the work, pulling me along as if by a
During this presentation, I will describe this experience. I will discuss how it affects my role as a performer and serves as a source of inspiration for my work as a composer.