The Hamlet Symphony

(Click here if you don’t see the video)

In my life I’ve done a few things I’m proud of.  For example, I’ve written two books.  The first of these books has undergone extensive revision.  And yet, in my mind these two books combined pale in comparison to the accomplishment of the Hamlet Symphony.  From the first note to the last, every part of this hour long symphony, from notes to phrases to themes to sections to entire movements, interrelate and work together to form a cohesive whole.  A note in the third movement is impossible with one from the second.

As many of you know, I decided to release the symphony back in February.  All I’ll say is that although The Hamlet Symphony may be the culmination of my musical life, it is definitely not my most successful achievement!  The Hamlet Symphony is available on iTunes and Amazon.  It’s also available on CD Baby. Try here for Amazon UK.

The Hamlet Symphony is a companion to the famous play and portrays a little of its complexity in music. There are a few scenes set to music, but this isn’t a straight forward soundtrack, being meant more as a reflection on the characters and the action. In some ways The Hamlet Symphony is the emotional reaction one might have while reading or seeing the play.

The symphony can be described as visually influenced contemporary tonal classical music covering many moods and emotions, but with an overall dark psychological edge.  This music was created as concert music but is suitable as a soundtrack to a tragedy.

Although it is six movements, at the heart is a four movement classical structure which has obviously been greatly modified.

The Hamlet Symphony

I. Introduction: The Midnight Watch – The stage is readied and the mood set for the rest of the symphony. This movement can be listened to as the first two scenes of the play, waiting on the battlements waiting for the ghost. When the clock strikes one, the spirits may talk.

II. Hamlet: To Be or Not To Be – A quick character sketch of Hamlet and his various moods set to music. The main rhythm of the first theme follows the famous soliloquy and shows the philosophical side of the hero. A more heroic, action theme is a contrast to the brooding side of the famous Dane.  I previously had a post just about this movement.

 III. Scherzo: Mad North by Northwest – Madness seen from various angles and in various incarnations. Some ideas and feelings associated with the fake madness of Hamlet and the real madness of Ophelia are portrayed in music.

IV. Remembering Ophelia – A character sketch of Ophelia from the point of view of remembering one who has already departed. The music is sometimes lovely, sometimes full of life, often sad. The end comes over a liquid sound with a big crash (Ophelia falling in the river) but flows into the next movement.

V. At the Gravesite – This is the closest to a literal translation from a scene in the play, though it is changed to fit the musical needs. It flows out of the last movement, goes into a funeral march, followed by a soliloquy in the voice a solo cello speaking about death. The movement ends with, well, I’ll leave that up to you.

VI. Last Act of Hamlet – After a brief recovery from the funeral scene there is a contrast between the angry Leartes and the calmer, but determined Hamlet. What follows can be thought of as the game of foils between Leartes and Hamlet, a game which leads to the death of the queen, king, Leartes and, finally, Hamlet. The play, and symphony, come to a tragic end.

The whole symphony is based on three 12-tone rows and series of short motifs, yet is mostly tonal in nature. The symphony grows organically, each theme evolving as music continues making the whole hour long composition a single, unified piece of music.

If you missed it, The Hamlet Symphony is now available on iTunes and Amazon.  It’s also available on CD Baby. Try here for Amazon UK.

Hamlet Symphony

7 thoughts on “The Hamlet Symphony

  1. roweeee

    Trent, I’ll have to get myself sorted and have a listen. My desktop computer doesn’t have speakers and the laptop has come back to life after my husband gave it CPR. Congratulations though on putting something so complex together. Very impressive in itself…as well as the two books.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: If We Were Having Coffee – 11/7/2015 | Trent's World (the Blog)

        1. trentpmcd Post author

          I think there are a lot of us that feel that way. Thinking of Australia, I follow someone from your part of the world who calls herself “Master of Something I’m Yet to Discover” or something like that. Yep, that’s me too.



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