Christopher Tin: Sogno di Volare

Context

Award-winning American composer Christopher Tin is perhaps best-known for his film and video game music. His output shows that he is a talented orchestral and choral composer, with his influences spanning both Eastern and Western musics. Tin has won two Grammy Awards for his classical crossover album Calling All Dawns. Video game music is at the core of Tin’s success as a composer, with his music for Civilization IV becoming the first of its kind to win a Grammy Award in 2011. 

After working in the Civilisation franchise some years before, Tin returned to the organisation in 2016 to compose the main theme for Civilisation VI. The theme was named Sogno di Volare (‘The Dream of Flight’). As well as featuring as the anthem for the game, Sogno di Volare also received a concert premiere in June 2016 at Cadogan Hall in London. The performance featured the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the Lucis and Prima Vocal Ensembles.    

 

The Lyrics

The lyrical basis of Sogno di Volare comes from a modernised version of Leonardo da Vinci’s writings on flight. Tin explains further:

 

“Sogno di Volare is the essence of exploration; both the physical exploration of seeking new lands, but also the mental exploration of expanding the frontiers of science and philosophy.”

 

The original Italian lyrics, plus an English translation can be found here:

 

Una volta che avrai / Once you have taken flight

Spiccato il volo, deciderai / You’ll decide

Sguardo verso il ciel saprai / Gaze towards the sky, you’ll know that

Lì casa il il cuore sentirai / That is where your heart will feel at home.

 

Una volta che avrai / Once you have taken flight

Spiccato il volo, deciderai / You’ll decide

Sguardo verso il ciel saprai / Gaze towards the sky, you’ll know that

Lì casa il il cuore sentirai / That is where your heart will feel at home.

 

Prenderà il primo volo / The great bird

Verso il sole il grande uccello / Will take his first flight toward the sun

Sorvolando il grande Monte Ceceri / Sweeping over the great Mount Ceceri

Rimpendo l’universo di stupore e gloria / Filling the universe with wonder and glory.

 

Una volta che avrai / Once you have taken flight

Spiccato il volo, deciderai / You’ll decide

Sguardo verso il ciel saprai / Gaze towards the sky, you’ll know that

Lì casa il il cuore sentirai / That is where your heart will feel at home.

 

L’uomo verràportato dalla sua creazione / Man will be lifted by his own creation

Come gli uccelli, verso il cielo… / Just like birds, towards the sky…

Rimpendo l’universo di stupore e gloria / Filling the universe with wonder and glory.

 

Una volta che avrai / Once you have taken flight

Spiccato il volo, deciderai / You’ll decide

Sguardo verso il ciel saprai / Gaze towards the sky, you’ll know that

Lì casa il il cuore sentirai / That is where your heart will feel at home.

 

Gloria! / Glory!

 

The Music

Opening with a mix of sustained notes and driving string rhythms, the opening grows in glorious excitement. Once the scene is set the choir begins singing. The compound structure of the accompaniment adds a bounce to the rhythms, which pushes the music forward. The accompaniment grows with the choir by putting fragments of the melody up and octave and adding different instrumentation to add timbral effects.

The choir sings in unison , which creates a powerful wall of sound. This also shows the importance of the lyrics. Tin’s extensive use of percussion paired with his clever orchestrations makes the piece really effective. Clashing tubular bells, fanfaring trumpets and militaristic snare drums lead the way into the last phase of the piece.

The brass and choir unite to play the vocal line, which leads to the ultimate climax of the piece. The use of organ at the end here is also really effective in the rich texture, making grand and epic in style and attitude. The strings persist with their driving theme until the very last ‘Gloria!’ before the sudden ending. 

 

Final Thoughts

Christopher Tin’s main theme for the 2016 video game Civilisation VI is epic in all proportions. From the unity in the voices, to the driving rhythms in the orchestra, the rich textures and powerhouse of sound makes it one of the most striking themes of all. 

 

Happy Reading!

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You might also enjoy… Judith Weir: Stars, Night, Music and Light

 

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