Fahrenheit was conceived via the imagery of flame as depicted in Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. Flame typically evokes poetic and literary associations such as passion, rebellion and rage. Some of these associations are found in Fahrenheit 451. However, flame is also depicted as a beautiful and impartial arbitrator in this story, which is set in a futuristic world, filled with social and political tensions far exceeding even those of our present. One particular passage from the book illustrates this idea beautifully; “Let’s not quibble over individuals with memoriam. Forget them. Burn all, burn everything. Fire is bright and fire is clean.”
This statement is representative of a societal belief system in the world of Fahrenheit 451and suggests, along with other passages in the book, that only through the cool destruction of individuality can men and women subvert controversy and live peaceably amongst each other. The protagonists of this story, on the other hand, are willing to sacrifice life rather than submit to a society that suppresses the very human need to express individuality through diverse experience and knowledge. In Fahrenheit, I did not attempt to relate this in any kind of strict programmatic way. I instead chose to represent these ideas as they relate to specific images of flame inspired by the story; one specific image being the remnants of blue flame dancing on the cool ashes of a desolate landscape.
I chose to represent this later image with a very strict beating of the pulse that occurs throughout the orchestra in the beginning in combination with a “flickering” motive in the piano, which consists of outbursts of sixteenth notes scored at the extremes of the range. These outbursts come closer and closer together as the piece progresses. This culminates in an impassioned rush of sixteenth notes as the piano asserts itself for the first time as a solo element. At the end of this rush the second theme is introduced and is characterized by an angular rhythmic profile (dotted rhythms and off-beat triplets) and an almost bell-like sonority. The “‘flickering” motive and the “bell-like” motive are juxtaposed and combined in the following music, which reaches a climax where all of the instruments in the ensemble beat heavy chords within a quickly accelerating tempo. This destructive madness ends abruptly, leaving only the whisper of a cello harmonic to sustain the sound. There is a brief slow section that follows, which utilizes a character transformation of the second theme heard first in the bassoon. This section represents for me the desolate, ash-filled wasteland left over from the destructive forces of almighty flame; peaceful, yet disturbingly cold. The mood prevails for some time, but is compromised at a certain point by flickering rays of hope taking the form of the short sixteenth note outbursts from the beginning of the piece (this time scored in the extreme upper register of the piano). The piano gradually leads the other instruments of the ensemble into the concluding section, which consists of a series of instrumental cadenzas and exclamatory tutti gestures that are almost military in nature. Although not strictly related to the content of the actual story by Ray Bradbury, this last section could have a programmatic association in which the individual triumphs over the destructive tyranny of the fictional society in the world of Fahrenheit 451.