Lights flashed different colors in the Kent Concert Hall at Utah State University while the USU Symphony Orchestra, along with the university’s combined choirs, performed Alexander Scriabin’s “Prometheus: Poem of Fire.”
Anna Gawboy, a musicologist from Ohio State University, and Laura Jackson, music director for the Reno Philharmonic, came to USU to coordinate Scriabin’s piece, which was played in a concert Saturday evening.
“If you’re going to do Prometheus, you need to do it with lights,” said Christopher Scheer, who organized the event. “And you need someone who knows how the lights are supposed to interact with the music.”
Scheer said the person with this knowledge is Gawboy, who has been studying Scriabin since 2008.
Gawboy said Scriabin wrote “Prometheus: Poem of Fire” when technology was not advanced enough to do the lighting effects he had envisioned. However, he was able to write out how he wanted the show to look.
“To think that this was done in 1910 is extraordinary,” said Jackson, who conducted the performance. “He didn’t have these kinds of lighting racks to do amazing things like this. So his resources were very primitive, but his vision was very complex and wonderful.”
According to Gawboy, though modern technology made it possible to perform the piece closer to Scriabin’s vision, it is not advanced enough to be exactly what he wanted.
“An authentic performance of the piece is something that’s going to happen in the future, not something that happened in the past,” Gawboy said.
Scheer said the piece reflects the Greek story of Prometheus, a Titan who stole fire from the Gods and gave it to humans.
Gawboy said Scriabin’s interpretation of the story was influenced by theosophy, a spiritual movement that took place in the early 20th century.
“He adds a little bit of a twist on it in that the fire that Prometheus stole from the gods is actually intellectual light and intelligence and creativity,” Gawboy said.
Jackson said it was challenging to figure out how to make the piece flow best while the performers were on stage with lights flashing in their eyes.
“It’s a complex piece to perform, but it’s really a thrill to be in the middle of,” Jackson said. “When everybody comes together and moves together and does something subtle and beautiful, that’s the reward.”