Falling Man/Dancing Man (2005)
“Australian composer Andrew Schultz’s new score for organ and orchestra Falling Man/Dancing Man takes its title from two photographs: one of a suited gentleman cavorting down Sydney’s Elizabeth Street in the celebrations ending WWII; the other someone jumping from the World Trade Centre on September 11, 2001. Schultz uses the organ as a concertante contributor and Calvin Bowman’s discreet handling of the massive Town Hall instrument’s registration possibilities slotted ideally into the composer’s restrained vision.
In three movements, the piece begins with a blues-influenced sequence, the organ an insistent pattern-maker exploding into a central solo before returning to the naggingly off-centre rhythm.
The central “Deep Crossing” holds a slow-moving lyricism that rises to powerful activity before the final moving bars featuring an ostinato xylophone that speaks of an ominous inevitability. By contrast, the last movement presents muffled high spirits; here, the organ comes into its virtuosic own. The whole work has a non-obtrusive American accent, its building blocks small in proportions but cogently layered.” [Clive O’Connell, The Age, 21 November 2005]
“Infinity Jinx from Andrew Schultz’s Falling Man/Dancing Man for Solo Organ and Orchestra, Op. 68, features quirky instrumentation – from brassy bends to organ jitters – surrounded by a bed of winds, evoking a playful shelter from winter’s storms. The use of space between notes adds an element of randomness throughout the opening movement, while the strings of Deep Crossing creep and linger like storm clouds. The Laughing Man opens with a chuckling flute echoed by other musicians before a ‘cuckoo’ motive heralds a thunderous organ entry.” [Stephanie Eslake, “Contemporary orchestral works usher in a wild Winter’s Warmth,” Limelight, 13 October 2017]
This recording of Falling Man/Dancing Man on the new CD, Winter’s Warmth (Navona NV6091), “presents a fine opportunity for the piece to be extended in time and reach. For Schultz, the impetus to write this piece was visual. Two powerful and contrasting photographs from pivotal moments in the 20th century transcending hemispheres, continents and decades, represented to him, two different contexts of war – one of increasing threat, the other, the removal of threat. To one, the response was of courageous self-determination (or helpless acquiescence); to the other, jubilation….Schultz has been commissioned by numerous ensembles and his writing has enriched the Australian canon significantly with both small- and large-scale works for solo instruments, chamber, orchestra, operatic and vocal ensembles. He has an impressive discography and his opera The Children’s Bach has been presented on film. Whilst his experience has been international, Schultz’s writing represents the Australian story to be told by Australian performers.” [“Falling Man/Dancing Man on a new release from Navona,” Sounds Like Sydney, 4 May 2017]
“The title of Schultz’s thought-provoking piece, Falling Man/Dancing Man, written in 2005, refers to two photographs – one horrific and the other joyous. The Falling Man is one of those desperate people who chose to jump from the World Trade Centre on 9/11 rather than endure death by fire; no-one who has seen TV, film or photographs taken then could forget those searing images. Dancing Man is a famous image of a young man leaping over ticker-tape in a Sydney street, his jacket flying open and hat held aloft in ecstatic exultation at the end of World War II; this photograph can be viewed on the CD website, but there is none of Falling Man – we need no reminders there.
Falling Man/Dancing Man, described as a concerto-style piece with three movements, is performed by the Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Petr Vronský with organist Karel Martinek. The stark opening theme of the first movement “Infinity Jinx” might engender an expectation of anxiety, yet Schultz’s music here is not programmatic; though sometimes the ambience is sometimes foreboding, at other times it is lively and we might hear chirping birds. The second movement “Deep Crossing” takes us into a tranquil space which builds to a calm climax where one could imagine walking amongst majestic high mountains; it then returns to gentle lyricism and more birdcalls. It is beautiful, evocative music, with a sweet finish. The third movement “Laughing Man” is more programmatic, joyful, with some dancing from the organ, several ‘hurrahs’ from the orchestra and a loud, staccato orchestral chord to close. The organ is ever-present throughout the entire piece, providing an integral part in the powerful impact of the whole.” [Gwen Bennett, “Winter’s Warmth – Music by Schultz, Carollo, Ulrich and Kawarski,” Music Trust – Loud Mouth, December 2017]
TRAUMA CLASSICAL: “FALLING MAN / DANCING MAN” AN INTERVIEW WITH COMPOSER ANDREW SCHULTZ
As the header suggests, this “Trauma Classic” is neither a clinical perspecive nor book. It is a discussion about an orchestral world premier performance occurring in Melbourne, Novemember 18th 2005. The composer, Professor Andrew Schultz from Univerity of Wollongong, sat in the audience as the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra delivered his concerto-style work to a capacity filled and enthralled Town Hall.
The composition “Falling Man/Dancing Man” was initially inspired by two photos contrasting the human experience of trauma. The first image, “Falling Man”, captures one man, in the 9/11 World Trade Centre attacks. The second image, “Dancing Man”, holds in midflight one man in Elizabeth street Sydney 1945. In the latter he jumps for joy at the end of war. In the former he leaps to his death. As is the way of photography, these moments in time are frozen, the men never land. As is the ontological nature of trauma, time is slowed and one image triggers so many memories.
Its deep tapestry of orchestra and solo pipe organ dragged the audience into a non-verbal (if not preverbal) narrative of both celebration and dread. Knowing the visual inspiration to this powerful musical landscape, I was compelled to bring Andrew Schultz to the traumatology community with a few questions:
Do you think “Falling Man / Dancing Man” is a work about trauma?
[AS] Defining the meaning of any musical work is almost always difficult because by its nature instrumental music is nebulous. I can remember as a child at school being played the famous Moldau River scene from Smetana’s Ma Vlast and coming up with a completely unrelated scenario – nothing to do with rivers. No doubt the teacher thought I was a bit of a goose and obviously unmusical. Perhaps the meaning would be clearer to me now if I had just heard it for the first time as I would by now be more in touch with the musical clues composers use.
But we can never be sure, as listeners or composers, that what we are hearing is shared throughout an audience in terms of meaning or that the composer’s apparent intentions are always what the real significance of the music may be for the composer. There can be hidden agendas with composers or deeply felt personal experiences and problems that lie beneath the musical surface.
But to answer the question I think there is an element of responding to trauma in this work – trying to find positives from the cycles of destruction and negativity that seem always ready to renew themselves. I drew the title, “Falling Man/Dancing Man”, from two photos with contrasting depictions of human reactions to war. The first was the abject image of a Falling Man taken from the ground below the World Trade Centre attacks in New York in 2001. The image was later suppressed and remains a deeply contradictory photo given the choices and pain implicit in the subject’s decision to jump. The second shows a Dancing Man who is celebrating in a Sydney street at the end of World War Two.
The seeming inevitability of human destructiveness and the way individuals struggle against that is something I allude to in the titles
of the three movements of the work. The first, “Infinity Jinx”, is taken from the children’s playground taunt – where children make a game of outdoing each other with curses of bad fortune. “Deep Crossing” takes the idea that individuals have to rise above human misfortune to have any hope; I see that as an inner struggle against external circumstances and for that reason the movement is the most overtly expressive of the three.
Finally the third movement, “The Laughing Man”, is playful and celebratory but somewhat ironic in intent as it takes its name from a short story by J D Salinger. Salinger is best known for “Catcher in the Rye” and this short story has a similarly droll and understated quality and draws on the experience and imagination of children for its shape. In the story, a group of pre-teen children are held enthralled by their baseball coach’s spirited but juvenile tales of glory and bloodshed enacted by a ‘laughing man’; so- called, because a nasty experience with the bad guys in the story has left his face in a permanent disfigured smile. The story has a way of making light of heavy things.
The two images are iconic – how did they become the foundation for an orchestral composition?
[AS] I started thinking about the Falling Man photo after hearing a lecture by Peggy Phelan from Stanford University talking about the image and its interpretation in the US, post-9/11. The idea of a simple musical depiction of that image was not of great interest to me but the idea of it as a contrast to the celebrated Australian photo did appeal.
I was amazed as I started to research the images, quite casually via Google, to find countless images of falling and dancing bodies and to discover that very often they were similar, if upturned, images. They ranged from popular images, through to tarot cards and to sophisticated artworks from all periods.
My conclusion was that there are symbolic and psychological dimensions around falling and dancing as polarities of experience that seem to run deeply.
When we reflect about classical music, trauma is so often at its core. Would you agree?
[AS] Yes although much music is also driven by sonic and intellectual concepts that are quite independent of any specific experience; that depends a lot on the outlook and aesthetic view of the composer.
When you composed “Falling Man / Dancing Man” were you also engineering an emotive response from the audience?
[AS] The issue of emotion in music is both interesting and complex. More accurately I should say the issue of emotional response in an audience
hearing music as the emotion is not technically in the music. Many modernist composers would regard any engagement with an audience’s emotional responses as suspect. The reasons for that view are not hard to find if you look at archival film footage of Hitler exploiting Wagner’s music to incite an audience to his cause. Conversely, Hitler like Stalin, felt the message in some music to be unacceptable because it embodied values that were abhorrent to his ideology.
In contemporary film the emotional response of the audience is often manipulated by the director and its effectiveness may even be tested through focus group response prior to a film’s release. Indeed film scores have been edited or rejected on that basis. Very often what happens is that music is used in film because it fits a kind of stereotype of what is desired by way of response from an audience.
For me, the emotional response to concert music is one of the great values of the art although one which can be abused and is rarely used skillfully in our era. The beauty and subtlety of it is that, like sexual arousal, the emotional response itself is not predictable or capable of being ‘engineered’ entirely. What makes the musical experience so potent emotionally is that it is a collective or shared experience for an audience. I do believe that in shared mass experiences like music performance or sporting attendance or religious worship a significant part of the experience derives from its communal nature. What makes the musical experience even more potent is the familiar mode of concentrated and formal silence that the audience is expected to observe.
It’s a bit of a black art but I have learnt some things about what causes a response to occur and some of them are obviously translated physical responses; sheer volume or intensity of sound, particular simple harmonic progressions, sudden contrasts, rising melodic lines, prolonged accumulations of material, simplicity contrasted with dense complexity and so on. These are examples which are potent because they tap into basic physical experiences. What is even more interesting to me is the kind of experience that is harder to define but which seems to me to be the experience of ‘artistic truth’ – namely when something touches a kernel of shared experience because the idea is so lucid and real. One might call this the hairs standing up on the neck and goose bump factor. It’s an honest and unpredictable response; it cannot be engineered and seems ultimately to be deeply cathartic.
[“TRAUMA CLASSICAL: ‘FALLING MAN / DANCING MAN’ AN INTERVIEW WITH COMPOSER ANDREW SCHULTZ,” Stress Points’, Summer 2006 – eNewsletter of the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, pp. 13-14]