It is fitting that the London Symphony Orchestra was the first orchestra in the world to record my Symphony No. 3. It had its beginnings as a song cycle entitled Awake Humanity to Nature’s Beauty! I took the poetry of William Blake and set it to music. Blake infuses nature into much of his poetry and he has the distinction of being the father of the Romantic Period in art.
There are two versions of the Blake Song Cycle, the first for Soprano, Guitar, Cello, and Piano (2007), and the later for Soprano, Violin, Cello, and Piano (2011). I transcribed the second version for orchestra in 2017 while living on the Big Island of Hawaii, which contributed to the lyrical nature of Symphony No. 3. The second version was premiered in Honolulu at the Public Radio Station and recorded soon thereafter.
The music had its genesis when MySpace was popular and artists had web pages extolling their art. Several musicians, including the great guitarist Christian Saggese, had heard my music and wanted me to compose music for them. A soprano from London, Sharon Selman, wanted me to write her a song cycle about nature and suggested Blake as a source. She had mentioned that Blake had written fine “nature poems” with direct environmental expositions.
Beginning with an ode to morning, the music transverses the romantic side of human nature until we reach the evening stillness, which often arouses human appetites. Within our daily dialogue, gestures express ideas or meaning in ways that words cannot convey, where body movements speak louder than utterances. Our gestures can be intensely energetic, filled with vibrato and fire, or calm and deliberate with much playfulness and merriment as we live our daily drama of life. It’s within this garden of earthly delights that our cravings, quests, and seductions, where a person whose affection or favor has been won, take on significance and form. The third movement conveys a romantic adventure, while the fourth satisfies the yearning for human bonding as we indulge in our romantic affairs.
The first and fourth movements were transcriptions from the Song Cycle that contained Blake’s poems To Morning and Love and Harmony. Movements Two and Three were mostly transcriptions from the instrumental pieces within the Song Cycle (Awake Humanity to Nature’s Beauty! and the Prologue). Snippets from another song in the Cycle were added to the third movement as well as a section of new music to enhance its character and development. Adding a soprano voice came to me while the music was being composed and it seemed a natural fit in the section where the romantic adventure was in full swing!
— John A. Carollo