Jacob Harrison and the
Iowa State University Symphony
February 19, 2016
Iowa State University
Jacob Harrison, conductor
Ames, IA, USA
FULLMETAL is my homage to the genre of Japanese Anime. The title is taken from the manga series Fullmetal Alchemist by Hiromu Arakawa, which weaves an epic tale of the adventures of Edward and Alphonse Elric, young gifted brothers skilled in the art of alchemy. The catalyst of the drama stems from their desire to bring their mother back to life. Edward’s attempt at resurrection ignites a chain reaction unleashing a septet of colossal evil, the homunculi (the seven deadly sins incarnate).
The work opens with an enormous surge of energy, a swirl of spellbinding music marking the beginning of Edward’s attempt to resurrect his mother. A steroidal fanfare in the lower brass announces the main “Elric” theme (repeated punctuations followed by a minor third) with surrounding material spiraling in ominous waves of sound. Shimmering orchestration reflects the pyrotechnic sorcery of alchemy. Suddenly, starting in the basses and working through the strings, the theme is woven into a slithering fugue-like section composed of descending scale like gestures (homunculi motive) gradually melting with glissandi. From the remains of his mother, the failed resurrection gives birth to a Homunculus and the music becomes slimy as the mother-creature brews in a contorted mush of flesh and bone. Restatements of the main theme build with intensity leading to a second outburst of energy, Edward's valiant sacrifice to save his brother by transmuting him into knight’s armor.
A softer mysterious middle section is a glimpse at the Gateway Universe, a realm between worlds where the homunculi originate. Solo woodwind passages meld the main theme and homunculi motive together. The aftermath leaves Edward in a pool of gore, his leg and arm torn off (later to be replaced by metal). The heroic main theme is transformed into dissonant and screaming cries in an interplay between strings, winds and brass. The musical carnage recedes with Edward reminiscing of happier pastoral memories. The homunculi motive transforms into lush cascading downward scales recalling a purer angelic image of their mother. This builds to the works climax and turning point, a painful realization that human transmutation has morphed the remains/memory of a loved one into a malignant, evil entity. The memory collapses and the final section bursts to the forefront with a renewed sense or purpose. Hyper-techno-like music fuels the return of the main theme with bombastic fury. Edward now resolved to conquer and destroy the evils he has unleashed becomes Fullmetal, and the work races to the finish with an uppercut blow of orchestral might.
February 21, 2020: Texas State University Symphony Orchestra; Jacob Harrison, conductor (San Marcos, TX)
November 19, 2016: Iowa All-State Orchestra; Jacob Harrison, conductor (Ames, IA)
February 19, 2016: Iowa State University Symphony; Jacob Harrison, conductor (Ames, IA)