Beyond Sight

Tone Poem after Plato for Orchestra

Dan Welcher

Performing Ensemble: Orchestra
Publisher: Elkan-Vogel, Inc.
Print Status: Rental

Quick Overview

"Beyond Sight" was commissioned by George Mason University to celebrate the millennium. I was asked to somehow put into music the ideal of the value of education. My friend and colleague Paul Woodruff, respected translator of ancient Greek texts, suggested a scene from Plato's monumental book, Republic. Book Seven of Republic is known as the ?Parable of the Cave,? and it?s all about education. Plato has us suppose that we have been chained all our lives in a subterranean cavern, with only the reflected shadows of men on a wall as our ?reality? of the world. We cannot turn our heads, and what we know as reality is in fact an illusion?but it?s all we know.

Then someone comes along (a teacher?) who strikes off our chains, and forces us to turn around. We see a fire, and realize that what we had perceived as men and reality was in fact reflected shadow on the wall of the cave. But again, it?s all we knew?so we reject the truth. Then this same person, or another like him, leads us up and out of the cave altogether?and we see, for the first time, the sun. And we are dazzled ?beyond sight? takes us awhile to accept it, but as the beauty and the truth reach deeply within us, we know this is what we have been yearning for. And we pity those left back in the cave.

This is the outline of my musical treatment, in a nutshell. It begins in the cave, with a theme of yearning and foreboding, with a persistent knocking pedal note underneath. This theme is our reality?it?s rather depressing, but it?s all we have. At length, we see reflected shadows in the firelight and this, to us, is beauty. But then, a violent act occurs?our chains are suddenly struck off, and we are urged to turn around. Three times we are turned toward the light, but we resist. Then our guide literally forces us to move. Three times (in three fugal episodes on the same subject, in 6/8, 2/4, and then 9/16) we are led toward the entrance to the cave, turning back after the first and second attempt. But the third try is successful?we?re led up and out and into the sunlight. And we?re dazzled ?beyond sight? at what we see?at first it?s too bright to focus, but in time it is made clear. And what we see is the sun itself (I quote the oldest piece of Greek hymnody that exists, in deference to Plato: the First Delphic Hymn To The Sun), setting off rays and sparkles and making everything clear. Our old friend, the yearning theme, is still there?but now it?s in a context of belief, enlightenment, and positive energy. We see.

"Beyond Sight" was premiered on April 22nd, 2000 by the George Mason University Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Anthony Maiello. It is dedicated to Paul Woodruff.

Available on Rental

Scores & Parts

Beyond Sight - Full Score - Study
Beyond Sight - Full Score - Large

Additional Information

Commission Commissioned by George Mason University
Composition Date 1999
Duration 13:00
Orchestration 3(Picc.) 3(E.H.) 3(dbl. B.Cl.) 3(Cbsn.) - 4 3 3 1; Timp. 4Perc. Pno.(dbl.Cel.) Hp. Str.; opt. spoken introduction
Premiere April 22nd, 2000. George Mason University Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Anthony Maiello.