Regulus, by Pat Muchmore

  • DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.18177/sym.2014.54.sr.10551

Regulus was premiered on the Millikin University Chamber Percussion Ensemble’s annual “Masterworks” concert in April of 2012. Ostensibly, it stands as Pat Muchmore’s most ambitious percussion work to date. Composed for large percussion ensemble, it employs more than forty instruments, including two five-octave marimbas, five timpani and more than ten gongs comprised of both metal and glass. Musically, it refers to the thematic connection between two entities sharing the name, Regulus. One is among the brightest stars in our sky. Technically named α Leonis, it is a massive star spinning so fast that gravity barely holds it together. The other is a Roman general named Marcus Atilius Regulus, who was supposedly executed by the Carthaginians after they locked him in a lightless room, then removed his eyelids and forced him back outside to stare at the sun.

As such, Muchmore quite literally puts the Roman his Neo-Romantic styled composition as suggested by the work’s programmatic associations and intensely introspective ethos. After a murky introduction, a violent battle scene portrays one of the general’s many victories against Carthage; however, things become increasingly chaotic and disjointed symbolizing his capture and incarceration. Thereafter, his lightless captivity is depicted by a melancholy section wherein the Regulus theme is stated by the solo vibraphone. This continues for several increasingly desperate iterations, culminating in a massive, piercing swell at the moment Regulus is forced to stare at the sun. Somehow, the horror of this act manages to confuse even the piece itself. The program suddenly shifts to looking too closely at the wrong sun–Regulus the star instead of Regulus the man. The α Leonis melody is built primarily out of a rising scale, and after a brief outburst, simple scales take over representing the increasingly swift and dangerous rotation of the star. Ultimately, the constant spinning accelerates and multiplies past the point of coherence, and the entire piece flies apart.

Muchmore has stated that, “In the end, the main story of Regulus is an exploration of the perils of looking too closely. The sun–without which we could not see at all–cannot itself be looked upon. The star, α Leonis, formed and spins because of gravity, but it spins so fast that gravity itself can only barely hold the form together. When I looked too closely at other meanings of the word Regulus, the program of the piece split into two different themes and structures. And when we look too closely at the story of Regulus, the general, it becomes clear that his beautifully noble story is almost certainly just jingoistic, anti-Carthaginian propaganda invented by the Romans. When we look too long and in too much detail at just about anything, we often find that its purpose, its structure, even its very meaning, can explode and disintegrate right before our rapidly dimming eyes.”

Recording Date:  May 5, 2012
Recording Location: Millitrax Recording Studio
Ensemble Type:  Percussion Ensemble
Duration: 0:09:00
Performers:  Millikin University Chamber Percussion Ensemble: Jeffery Bensmiller, Steven Berger Josh Dimmick, Brian Hilderbrand, Sean McDonald, Simon Nicholson, Wally Pochron, Colin Rambert, Graig Stasicky, Aaron Villarreal

About the Music

Composer:  Pat Muchmore
Instrumentation:  Percussion Ensemble
Date Composed:  April 2012
Place First Performed:  Kirkland Fine Arts Center
Date First Performed: April 28, 2012
Music Styles:  Modernist

Name of Piece:  Regulus

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Last modified on Thursday, 27/09/2018

Brian Justison

Brian Justison is Professor of Music and Coordinator of Percussion Studies at Millikin University. His responsibilities include directing the chamber and world percussion ensembles and teaching courses in percussion pedagogy and drum set styles. His students include recent winners of the MTNA National Solo Percussion Competition, the Percussive Arts Society International Percussion Ensemble Competition and two Downbeat Awards. His performance credits include the: Illinois Symphony and Chamber Orchestras, Canadian Brass, and the Brass of Illinois. He has also performed with a variety of leading jazz, Latin, and pop artists including: Gene Bertoncini, Brian Bromberg, Warren Chiasson, Jeremy Davenport, Dardanelle, Cathy Garcia, John McNeil, and Marcus Roberts. He is currently the drummer for the Jane Hartman trio. Mr. Justison is active as an adjudicator and clinician throughout the region with recent appearances at the United States Percussion Camp, the Midwest Percussion Camp, the IMEA/MENC All State Festival, and the Percussive Arts Society Illinois Day of Percussion. 

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