It is not a tremendous exaggeration to suggest the world almost ended on September
26, 1983. At the command center for the Soviet Union's Oko nuclear early warning
system a report came in stating that six hostile missiles were launched from the United
States. The commanding officer at the center, Stanislav Petrov, was convinced that the
missiles were a false alarm, and indeed the Oko system had malfunctioned. Petrov was
justified in reporting the attack to his superiors, which would have likely resulted in
retaliatory strikes from the Soviet Union, leading to nuclear war. This relatively obscure,
but immensely important moment in history is the inspiration for Alarm.
This work is not a direct retelling of Petrov's story, but a musical journey imagining the
many emotions this man must have been feeling. The piece is also not a look at the
Cold War politics surrounding the event, but a study of a choice, one of massive
consequences. The most significant element in Alarm is tension. The goal of the
opening statement of the piece, played by the brass, is to immediately transport the
listener into this world on the edge. This motive is developed throughout the work, and
serves as a binding agent as the music evolves. Another crucial element is the
oscillating staccato notes usually played by high-pitched instruments. This is implying
stress one might feel- whether it be an alarm going off or time running out. As the piece
seems to reach its breaking point just past the halfway mark, Petrov makes his choice.
The final part of the work is decidedly more peaceful, emphasized by the "Tranquillo"
and "Calmo" descriptors, but there is a consistent dark undertone to Alarm. Petrov's
story is bittersweet- he is a hero, but his accomplishments were swept under the rug by
Soviet leadership, humiliated by their nuclear system's failure. The near disaster in 1983
has barely been addressed by the world at large, even as the threat of nuclear war
seems to fade. When the next nuclear crisis arises, what choices will be made?
- 2020-06-01 08:35:45
- 2021-08-26 09:47:01
- 1 month 2 weeks ago