Concerto of Deliverance Album Comment

A Review of Concerto of Deliverance, by Carolyn Ray

The following review of Concerto of Deliverance was written by Carolyn Ray, a philosopher and consultant at, during an advance auditioning she partook of an earlier version of the work. With her approval, the review is posted here for the benefit of other listeners. [Thank you Carolyn!] Dr. Ray is the founder and director of Enlightenment at

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: concerto
Date: Tue, 21 Oct 2003
From: Carolyn Ray <carolyn at supersaturated dot com>
To: Monart Pon <monart at starshipaurora dot com>

Hi, Monart!

I don't think you need to be making disclaimers about why you or Mills-Cockell call this piece a concerto. I listen to concertos all the livelong day, literally, and none of them are by Rachmaninoff and none of them are played on modern piano. (I've got the Italian Concerto by Bach on right now, and there's just one instrument: the harpsichord.) The concerto was invented before Rand ever used the term. Bach wrote many concertos, as did Handel and Scarlatti, none of whom used symphonic orchestras (which is one reason I enjoy them so much). If someone has certain expectations when he hears the word 'concerto', and neither Bach's concertos nor Mills-Cockell's fits those expectations, then his expectations are unjustifiably narrow and are in need of amendment.

I poked around my books, the inserts of my albums, and the web a little bit, looking for definitions of 'concerto', thinking maybe I just was completely uneducated in this regard. All the definitions that I found were essentially, "solo instruments contrasted with a larger ensemble". I didn't see anything that was so anal as to suggest that a concerto had a fixed number of movements, and I certainly didn't see anything saying that the piano had to be, or even was most probably, the solo instrument.

I think one of the charming and innovative things about this concerto is that the 'solo' instrument is also most of the other instruments from time to time. This feature is reminiscent of and expands on the distinctiveness of the Italian Concerto, in which the harpsichord plays all the parts.

The two main songs, which Cashe belts out with transporting conviction, are inspiring melodies. As near as I can tell without giving it closer study, Spirit of Light's subject is the same subject used in the opening movements, turned inside out and shifted one beat and brought to satisfying resolution (I'm a sucker for resolution, what can I say?). Other movements play around with this same subject. I mention this particular feature not because I pay attention to that sort of thing while enjoying music, but because I seem to recall from the emails that others were having trouble seeing relationships between the movements, whereas I hear an integrated work. To justify this claim in more precise words, I'd have to look at the score.

The description that you quote from ATLAS says to me that the music should be thematic and lyrical, that it should tell a story; the first thing that struck me about the music was that it was telling a story. The storytelling is done primarily by changes in key, rhythm, and style or tradition. By the last, I mean that the music moves freely through American spiritual, American Indian, American western, Asian, Spanish, jazz, rock, symphonic, march, Gregorian chant, modern Persian, traditional Chinese, etc. In the music that I usually listen to, and in the music that I used to listen to during a less mature period (Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, Chopin, musicals, progressive rock, etc.) these diversions tend to define a movement or a dance, whereas one of the features that makes this piece so much fun and so intriguing is that these shifts occur fluidly through a single movement (especially movement 1, The Gathering). Storytelling in music happens to be something that I really like, and one reason that Bach is endlessly fascinating to me, but I also think it was the sort of thing you were going for, and certainly the title and the description you keep quoting suggest programmatic music. So I think he's done what you asked, as well as creating something beautiful in its own right.

I also enjoy the blurring of the line between what is typically thought of as orchestral/classical/grownup music, and group/rock/kid music. My guess is that your most enthusiastic customers among objectivists will be the under 30 neo objectivist crowd, who are used to and eager for new sounds, different sounds, pretty themes that aren't pretty the way their parents like them.

I may be off here, but I bet Rush fans will appreciate it; that crowd bleeds over into the 30 to 45 year old range. The rhythm changes constantly. Even during the segments where it remains constant, Mills-Cockell varies the way the rhythm is played, or changes the synthesizer registration used to play it. The key changes constantly. Rhythm and changing key are the ones most often mentioned as the virtues of Rush's music.

My own musical taste inclines toward the extremely complex, which is, I think, what explains my ability to enjoy this brand new piece despite my usual preferences for ancient music. My music collection consists almost exclusively of baroque played on period (restored or reproduced) instruments, and Bach is the main composer that I play. The only modern stuff I have is organ music. I can listen to many kinds of music, but for me there is no point in owning recordings of it because I only need to hear it once or twice before I have it memorized, at which point I become annoyed by it. I think I told you I sometimes listen to country in the car, because that is the station that my car likes the best; but I would never buy it. I can't tolerate smooth jazz, because it is So Damned Repetitious.

This concerto is really nice in that I can hear the themes that tie the whole thing together, but I don't have to endure repetitiveness. In other words, it's very listenable, for me. It satisfies the same urge that the organ works of Oliver Messiaen, Jean Langlais, Gabrielle Faure, Cesar Franck, and of course, Johann Sebastian Bach do. This MIGHT explain why others are having problems with it. It's too complex, they don't actually have good musical ears, and they can't find their way around in it. The young neo objectivists will not have this problem, I bet (not because they are all musical, but because they are accustomed to divergent musical directions, even the autistic ones).

The piece is extremely linear, which is another feature I find endearing. Chords are arpeggiated throughout, so the structure and logic is perhaps less obvious to some people if their preference is for music that is chiefly made up a vertical chords. As might be expected given what I've said so far, I have a strong personal preference for perpetual motion and steady rhythms without percussion. I'm pleasantly surprised by this piece's ability to seduce me despite the fact that it is more like modern music and less like German baroque in this regard. The effect of constant movement is maintained partly by the tensions created by the elements I mentioned earlier, as well as the linear structure. I think it speaks to the universality of the music that Mills-Cockell is able to capture the attention of someone so happily entrenched in the early music tradition.

As for whether Mills-Cockell has discharged his commission: I think he really does a fantastic job of executing joyful music where "Only a faint echo within the sounds spoke of that from which the music had escaped". The device used to express the faint echo of pain from which one has escaped, is the presence of the minor and Dorian modes, which is a constant even during some of the most uplifting passages in major keys. Sometimes Mills-Cockell weaves back and forth between acknowledgment/experience of pain and joy; sometimes the pain hovers in the background, unrecognized or forgotten but still a part of history, while fun and happiness take over. Evil lurks, that's just a fact: But it never wins. Nicely done.

A brief word about the passage from ATLAS: The most reasonable reading I can give this passage is not that pain and discomfort don't exist; the passage doesn't even suggest that they should be ignored where they do exist. It says that there are some kinds of pain that are needlessly self inflicted, and when you finally get a clue and extricate yourself from such a situation, you can look back and realize that you had been pretty silly to have kept yourself in that position. This is how Dagny's friends all see her. They see this challenge she's taken up and they all know she can't pull it off, because it's impossible. She keeps trying to reason with people who are too comfortable with their lazy and preconceived notions, to show them what's good, to set an example for them, and to give them alms in hopes that the feast will change their tastes and wake them up. The more she gives of herself to them, the more petulantly they reject her. She endures this pain because she expects a big payoff, in the form of new opportunities to create and use the latest technology, increasing profits, cool friends, stimulating conversation, and maybe even admiration. She thinks that her deliverance will involve fixing the people around her. It doesn't work. It never works. Deliverance for Dagny involves the recognition that she is talking to a brick wall, laughing at how silly she's been, and walking away to a place where people live more consciously and have more fun.

Walk away, Monart.


Carolyn Ray, Ph.D.

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Concerto of Deliverance
Composer: John Mills-Cockell
Executive Producer: Monart Pon
*Sunburst Music. All Rights Reserved. Copyright © 2004 Modern Sounds Publishing (SOCAN)