PURCHASE ALBUM

LINER NOTES FOR THE SONGS IN THE COSMIC WHEEL YEAR ORDER

 

COSMIC WHEEL OF THE ZODIAC

The lyrics for the Cosmic Wheel of the Zodiac song cycle were devised by astrologer and poet Benita Rainer who artfully distilled the individual characteristics of those born under each astrological star sign into poetic form.

 

Inspired by Benita’s poetry and universal truths expressed in the lyrics, Margaret Brandman composed this cycle of twelve melodic contemporary-classical songs which showcase a range of compositional techniques including counterpoint, modal harmonies, chromatic progressions, unusual rhythms, and,  for contrast and variety,  two of the songs are composed with a swing feel and jazz harmonies.


The songs were performed in concert by the Prague Mixed Chamber Choir under the direction of Jiří Petrdlik with soloists Barbora Polâšková & Matěj Chadima on the 14th of September 2017 in the concert hall at the Czech Music Museum in Prague.



 

1) The Ram in Spring (Aries song)

Overview of the work

 • Mysterious and evocative

 • Moderate pace

 • Major tonality sprinkled with chromatic harmony

 • Through-composed.

 

 ‘Aries’ marks the beginning of Spring in the Northern Hemisphere.  Hence it is the start of nature’s ‘calendar time.’  It is the time of rebirth and transformation of all primal energies.

 

The Ram in Spring’ expresses this god-given genesis of life.

This rather dramatic song begins with a rhythmic figure suggesting a ticking clock – marking the start of the nature’s calendar time.  The richly chromatic harmonies at the beginning of the song invoke the archetypal concepts in the lyrics. Following the hymn-like two-bar climax in the centre of the work,


‘Symbol of Creation, Father of us all, Tremble in your joints, hear the lion roar!’

 

a gentler mood is established to convey the transformation of life’s energies.

 

‘Linger round the melting pot, life is newly born,

Spin the ever moving top, ‘til you are quite transformed.’

 

The solo version of this song is performed by baritone Matěj Chadima

 

 

 

2) Four Castles of Stone (Taurus song)

 

Overview of the work

 • Evocative and inviting

 • Moderately slow pace

 • Minor tonality with hints of modal harmony and blue notes

 • Through-composed.

 

Taurus is the first earth sign in nature’s calendar time. Security, consolidation of interests and financial acumen are very important concerns for those born under the sign Taurus.

 

'We will build four castles of stone, to keep us safe and warm‘

 

Set in the resonant key of F minor, the melodies and harmonies evoke both medieval and contemporary qualities, painting a musical picture of the solid castle walls described in the lyrics.

The will to break through barriers of both material and psychological resistance in order to achieve further growth and ultimate stability, is epitomised in the solid harmonic and rhythmic opening followed by the soaring phrases leading to the climax of the work.

 

‘If I use will to break through the veil to you,

It will open the doors,

To possibilities yet undreamt of’

 

The song includes two flowing piano interludes, which connect the verses until we:


‘Find ourselves at home with one another’

 

The solo version of this song is performed by mezzo soprano Barbora Polâšková

 

 

 

3) In Two Minds (Gemini song)


 Overview of the work:

 • Gracefully melodic and whimsical

 • Moderate pace

 • Major tonality with extended modern harmonies

 • Through composed

 

Those born under the sign of Gemini may frequently change their point of view, and can change their minds quite easily about any aspect of their lives.  The sign is ruled by Mercury, whose temperatures go from one extreme to the other, and which has the most erratic orbit of our planets as its distance from the sun ranges widely. Mercury, mythologically, is Messenger of the Gods, and Raphael, Angel of Healing, is associated with Gemini.


‘In Two Minds’  captures the dual nature of this first air sign, which, although attuned to brilliance of mind and expression, is yet capable of emotional coldness. These aspects are encapsulated in the central phrase of the lyrics,

 

‘So do not stay and do not go’

 

In keeping with the dual nature of this sign, the form of the piece is binary with each section set in a different key – ‘two minds’ – two keys!   The work also incorporates both triple time and quadruple time signatures and combines elements of popular song with soaring mellifluous phrases.

 

The solo version of this song is performed by baritone Matěj Chadima

 

 

 

4) Dance of Life (Sun-Sign Cancer song)

Overview of the work

 • Light and breezy

 • Bright pace

 • Major tonality sprinkled with jazz harmonies

 • Through-composed in two complementary sections

 

“Love – devotion – tenderness - forever after”

These are the positive gifts of the heart so exemplified by resiliently positive Cancerian natures.

Those born under this sensitive sign value children, permanence and commitment.

 

Have you ever wanted to pop your lover into your pocket and take them with you?
To never let go of your loved one - join the crabs!

 

‘When I go, I take you with me, in my pocket, near my heart’


After the jazzy piano introduction, the first section of this song features an appealing syncopated melodic line establishing a swing feel in quadruple time which is in action till the final phrase,

 

‘Stop the wind and dam the waters, ‘til we are alone at last’

 

An eight-measure piano interlude introduces a change to the swing waltz feel for the coming lyrics:

 

'We are the dancers in life’s contest, waltzing for that silver cup’

 

In this second section of the song several modulatory progressions lead to a surprising change of key which remains in action until the end of the song.

 

The tempo slows for the emotive lyricism of these lines,

 

'I can feel your arms around me, clinging, clinging so tenderly.

In my arms and cheek to cheek, dancers through the dance of life’

 

and picks up the original bright tempo for the remainder of the song which finishes with the joyous declamation,

 

'Of life, of life, for life!

 

The solo version of this song is performed by baritone Matěj Chadima

 

 

 

5) Lion Love (Leo song)

Overview of the work

 • Dramatic yet wistful

 • Moderately fast

 • Minor modal tonality

 • Through-composed with recurring motifs

 

It is in the nature of Leo, the second fire sign, to be strong, brave and goal centred. The certainty to shine forth is the gift of this sun- ruled sign. To find the confidence to,

 

‘find your goals

And where you belong’
____________________________________________

 

'There is a lion, in the heart of everyone, young or old, weak or strong'

 

These opening lyrics have been set to a vigorous rhythm with solid chordal harmony strengthening the melody. The contrasting sections expressing the desires of the soul, have been treated with a more mellifluous approach. Following the rousing climax of the song in the final segment of the song, the more reflective lyrics are treated sensitively while in the final measures an uplifting hymn-like sequence ending with a Tierce de Picardie, complements the lyrics,

 

'for true harmony’


The duet version of this song was perfomed by the two soloists: 
Barbora Polâšková and Matěj Chadima

 

 

6) Virgo Delight (Virgo song) 

Overview of the work

 • Bright and humorous

 • Lively and Jazzy

 • Both triple and quadruple meters

 • Through-composed in three sections

 

The second earth sign in the cycle, those born under the sign of Virgo are modest, careful and critical of imperfections.  Virgo seeks to purify systems through organization.

The song begins with a jazzy swing waltz introduction. The scene is set with the opening quiet melody and the consequent rising melodic phrases lead with a crescendo to the climax of the section as the singer proclaims,

 

'All my life was rearranged, you joined my dots and cross’d my t’s.’

 

The second section of the piece is heralded by jazzy 5/4 time piano interlude which precedes the catchy melody for the next lyrics,

 

‘Order from chaos in an instant’

 

after which the bright swing waltz feel returns.

 

The final section incorporates a change to a swinging rhythm in quadruple meter and jazz harmonies that animate the final lyrics beginning with,

‘Scintillating rhythm, quite upbeat’ and ending with ‘She’s for me and life’s so sweet!'

 

The solo version of this song is performed by baritone Matěj Chadima

 

 

7) In Perfect, Perfect Pitch (Libra song)

Overview of the work

 • Serene and meditative

 • Moderately slow

 • Major tonality featuring Major 7th harmonies

 • Multiple changing time signatures

 • Longest work in the cycle.

 

Libra’s scales are constantly attempting to restore harmony and good fellowship to humankind.

 

A gently flowing, wistful melody begins this song, reflecting the intrinsic need expressed in the lyrics,

 

'If I should correct you accept it as a gift'

 

while the counterpoint between the melody and accompaniment reflects the argument,  or ‘out-of-sync’ viewpoints.

 

The appeal to reason is resolved with the central concept of the lyrics,

 

'For we must be attuned in Perfect, Perfect Pitch'

 

The use of multiple changing time-signatures enhances the natural speech patterns of the lyrics and facilitates the flow of the melody.

 

The second section of the song begins with a change of musical motif as the lyrics express the ponderings of the mind and heart,

 

'Who knows the depth of my soul?

How the balance weighs?

The hearts of many are wanting'

 

Then in order to allow time for the singer’s musings to occur, the piano performs the melody, while the voice reflects on the questions posed, singing extended tones which waft softly over the piano line.

The lyrics in the last section determine the solution to the enigma,

 

'Oh I will follow Theseus' thread,

'Til I find my just reward'

 

and the song ends with a final virtuosic flourish Until our scales align, in quintessential beauty’ 

The solo version of this song is performed by mezzo soprano Barbora Polâšková

 

 


8 )The Water Dragon (Scorpio song)

Overview of the work

 • Atmospheric and surreal

 • Moderate tempo

 • Major tonality featuring quartal and contemporary harmonies

 • Quadruple meter with occasional measures of odd time

 • Through-composed

 

1. “The fossils suggest that ancient scorpions crawled out of the seas and onto land...

www.livescience.com

 

The second water sign, Scorpio, collects its tools: precision, will, creativity and focus, then blends in passion and goes to work. Scorpios seek the freedom to see through, or under, the surfaces of all things, and by emerging unscathed, bring about amazing changes.

 

The song refers to the passionate out-thrust of creative energy inherent in the sign Scorpio; of the heights and depths to which they reach, and to their need for ultimate self-transformation through the discipline of merging with the beloved.

 

The two-bar piano introduction suggesting cascading water sets the scene.

The rising angular melodies and dissonant harmonies, convey the predicament of the scorpion,


‘Oh I am a water dragon, who’s been on land too long’

 

A change of mood created by contrasting harmonies suggesting coolness along with gentler melodies accompanies the next stanza beginning with:

 

‘Find me the deep cool water’

 

and then the tempo naturally slows when,

 

‘Earth’s red rivers pause’

 

The melodic line rises to a climax in response to the lyrics,

 

‘For I shall fly when time’s upon me and soar through the air through coolest rain’

 

and falls naturally to repose for the final line:

 

‘Then dive as deep as the bluest ocean, and enter your heart again’

 

*http://www.livescience.com/49451-ancient-scorpion-fossil-land.html

 

The solo version of this song is performed by mezzo soprano Barbora Polâšková

 

 

 

9) Cosmic Fire (Sagittarius song)

Overview of the work

 • Majestic and expansive

 • Moderately slow

 • Major tonality featuring several modulations (changes of key)

 • Quadruple meter

 • Through-composed with recurring melodic motifs.

 

The third fire sign, Sagittarius, gathers all of the insights of the zodiac to date, and shoots its arrow to land in the bullseye of Truth.

 

The dramatic finesse of this creative fire sign is well expressed in Benita Rainer’s inspirational and majestic lyrics which contemplate our state on Earth and our need to transform it.


Throughout the work, the focal points and projections needed to triumphantly overcome the far trajectories of the arrow are captured by the composer’s soaring melodies.

The first gently moving melodic line allows the singer to pose the opening philosophical question,

 

'Shall I show you the truth? Merge our vision with the stars?'

 

A rising melodic figure supports the creative powerhouse which is Sagittarius in the lyric,

 

'Cosmic fire shooting higher than others dare aspire'

 

After a soaring piano interlude, the tempo slows to allow the cosmic truth,

 

'Justice is a healing stream, sow the seeds of knowledge glean’d’

 

to be pondered.

 

The final meteorically rising melodies accompany the lyrics expressing that the search and its rewards are indeed exalted,

 

'Cosmic fire shooting higher than others dare aspire, to where our souls belong. Higher and higher!'

 

The duet version of this song was performed by the two soloists: - Barbora Polâšková and Matěj Chadima

 

 

 

10) The Mountain Goat (Capricorn song)

Overview of the work

 • Powerful and energetic

 • Lively tempo

 • Minor modal tonality with some sections in the Relative major key

 • Quadruple meter  4/8

 • Binary form

 

The last of the earth signs, Capricorn, encapsulates Sagittarius’ urge to win, Virgo’s understanding of organization, and Taurus’ need to consolidate and prosper.  The goat will build to endure and that includes love.

 

The lyric explores the harnessing of Capricorn power and its slow build up until the final climax of centered, focused, action and achievement.

 

At the outset the vigorous accompaniment figure and the melodic line which includes mountainous octave leaps, paint the picture of the energetic and sure-footed Mountain Goat,

'I am a goat, swift and oh so fleet, 
I roam the mountainside;

With ever climbing nimble feet'

 

The second section of the work, expresses Capricorn’s ability to accept the discipline of conforming to the structures of society,

 

'Although you may see me tamed, and grazing paddocks mildly'

 

Yet Capricorn never loses sight of its own purposes,

 

'I’ll climb and never yield’

 

 A gentler treatment of the melodic line, with fewer wide intervals, in conjunction with more frequent chord changes, allow a gradual climb to the summit followed by the final brisk summation,

 

‘For freedom finds me quickly’

The duet version of this song was performed by the two soloists: - Barbora Polâšková and Matěj Chadima

 

 


11) Universal Truth Remains (Aquarius song)

Overview of the work

 • Inspiring and uplifting

 • Moderate pace

 • Major tonality with some sections in the relative minor key

 • Quadruple meter

 • Binary form with majestic piano interlude

 

The third and final air sign, Aquarius, has grasped the ultimate social truth, which is the need for humankind to come together as a force for change in order to save our planet. Personal matters are often less important to the natives of this sign.

 

Following the piano introduction in the tonic major key, the reflection upon the nature of reality gleaned from honest confrontation, is introduced by the opening lyric with its gently moving melody in the more serious, contemplative, relative minor key:


'
See me not as man or woman, our love remains the same.

Humankind is in its childhood, universal truth remains'

 

The soaring revelation of spiritual truth reaches its climax as the melody reaches the highpoint of the section,

‘even the air that we breathe’

 

Then, the explosion of truth over, reconciliation occurs and the resolution takes place in the tonic major key,

'til we truly fit together - In the world, then in our hearts'

ending with the distant echo ‘In our hearts’

 

The solo version of this song is performed by mezzo soprano Barbora Polâšková

 

 

 

12) In Neptune's Realm (Pisces Song)

Overview of the work

 • Mysterious and atmospheric

 • Moderately slow tempo

 • Minor tonality with modal harmonies

 • Measures with varying durations

 • Through composed with repeating motifs

 

The ultimate water sign, Pisces, has seen it all as the Cosmic Wheel comes full circle.

The inviting of mystical attunement with the Divine as our source of salvation, is the central concept in this song.

‘Attuned to the other’

‘Whether we like it or not!’

 

Features of this work are the bubbling water effect created by the pulsating dotted rhythm in the piano bass line, over which the melodies seem to float,

 

'Then go quite deep to the heart of Neptune’s realm'

 

and the ethereal atmosphere created, as the mystical aspects of the lyrics are set to spine-tingling harmonies.

 

‘...think of Psyche's flowing ways'  and holds all men’s thoughts’

 

The solo version of this song is performed by mezzo soprano Barbora Polâšková

 

 

Liner notes by Margaret Brandman and Benita Rainer

 

CONNECT with Margaret Brandman

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