When I received a commission for a piece to the Malko competition 2021, my thoughts went to Jules Verne’s short story ”A Drama in the Air” (1851) – a story about a dramatic balloon ride. Just as the narrator starts the ascent of his balloon, a stranger jumps into its car. The unexpected passenger’s only intent is to take the balloon as high as possible, even at the cost of his and the pilot’s life… I have tried to capture this dangerous ascent in music, alternating with calmer passages where the narrator temporarily persuades the intruder to descend – only to be overpowered by him once more… ”You provoke me”, cries the stranger, ”and you shall no longer know whether you are rising or falling!”
Maybe there are similarities between flying a balloon and conducting an orchestra? And a conductor’s competition may in itself be regarded as a kind of ”drama in the air”, since the competitors lead the music by movements in the air!
So, how does it all end? Jules Verne concludes his story with these calming words: ”May this terrible narrative, though instructing those who read it, not discourage the explorers of the air.”
© Britta Byström