A top-rated 2008 release by composer Jeffrey Goodman, the CD "Whispering Harps of Merlin", tells in music the magical love story of Merlin and the Lady of the Lake.
Shrouded in mystery, magic and intrigue, the prophet and seer known as Merlin, ever since his iconic life in fifth century Britain, has evoked a fascination that few have matched. Medieval scribes have chronicled Merlin’s life as a magician, engineer of Stonehenge, and mentor of King Arthur of Camelot. Merlin became known as a prodigy during his childhood, and was a much sought after visionary and healer. Later in his life Merlin created the famous Round Table and became an advisor and military strategist to four kings.
Merlin first saw Niniane one morning near Camelot in the Forest of Broceliande. Known to history as the Lady of the Lake, Niniane captivated Merlin by her beauty, grace and depth of mind. He decided to offer his music to win her heart. The Whispering Harps of Merlin tells the story of their meeting, romance, courtship, travels, a fateful prophecy, and Merlin’s imprisonment in a glass tower.
I. Whispering Harps of Merlin. Merlin sees the beautiful Niniane, she with “eyes the color of a cloudy dawn,” and falls in love with her. At first he dons a disguise, speaks with her many times, and falls ever more deeply in love. Then he reveals his true identity as Merlin and makes seven harps, placing them around the lake in the Forest of Broceliande. Magically plucked by the movement of the stars, the strings of the harps play Merlin’s love song for Niniane.
II. Niniane’s Love Song for Merlin. Niniane is entranced by Merlin’s music. She sits under a flowering apple tree and plays her harp. A rainbow-colored nightingale emerges from an apple blossom and sings a love song. Drawn by the music, Merlin comes, and in return for her pledge of love, Merlin promises to teach her all of his knowledge and magical arts.
III. Pavane of the White Peacock. Merlin tells Niniane that he wishes to take her to his secret weather-making fountain. Merlin then conjures a white peacock that magically appears through a sparkling mist of colors. We hear its beautiful song. Singing and dancing in a circle, Merlin and Niniane follow the peacock along a double rainbow to Merlin’s fountain.
IV. Merlin’s Thunderbolt. By the fountain he explains to Niniane that the only way to get to his magic cave is to travel there on a thunderbolt. Using harps, drums and a celestial choir of 80 voices, Merlin invokes a thunderstorm. They are catapulted by a thunderbolt to the entrance of his cave. A flock of singing forest birds greets them when they arrive.
V. Merlin’s Violin Prophecy. Merlin and Niniane live together at the cave and Merlin teaches Niniane all of his secrets and wisdom. After many months, Merlin decides to play his prophetic violin. While playing the violin Merlin sees that Niniane is destined to cast a spell that will imprison him in a glass tower. Merlin finds Niniane and reveals the prophecy. At first Niniane refuses to cast such a dire spell. Merlin then explains that her spell will help release him from his worldly duties. He will renounce his magical powers and remain in the glass tower until he is prepared for his soul’s final journey to heaven. Merlin wipes away the tears from Niniane’s eyes and tells her that she will soon assume the mantle of his work, bringing healing and hope to the people of their realm. He assures Niniane that after he leaves his earthly body, from the realm of spirit, he will bring inspiration to all beings that seek his grace. The story of their lives will be enshrined in mythic lore and bring consolation to many during the dark ages to come. At last Niniane agrees to fulfill the prophecy. They kiss for the last time and dance together in loving sadness as the sunset yields to a moonless night.
VI. Niniane’s Rainbow Spell. Niniane makes four harps that are played by rainbow spirits whose fingertips reach to the harps’ strings. She gives Merlin a magic strawberry that radiates ruby light and he falls into a deep sleep. She draws a circle around him and her harps cast their fateful spell.
VII. Merlin’s Call to Hathor. Merlin awakens and knows that prison awaits him, but he takes out his war horn and calls his white falcon named Hathor. Hathor hears Merlin’s call for help and he cries out to Merlin that he will come. Hathor flies through hidden dimensions to be with Merlin.
VIII. Merlin’s Escape from the Glass Tower. Hathor tells Merlin that his only chance of escape is to transcend the limitations of body, time and space. His task is to compose and play a piece of music of exactly 72,000 notes. For 1,690 weeks Merlin contemplates the music he will compose. Each tone, note by note, must transform his body into a body of rainbow light. If even a single note is not true, he will remain imprisoned. Using a celestial clock as a metronome, whose clicks beat to the pulse of his heart, Merlin plays a vast perpetual canon using all twelve tones of the musical scale. The notes slowly entwine, mirroring in sound the double helix spiral of Merlin’s genetic code. Merlin’s physical body gradually dissolves into a body of rainbow light, and, as he passes beyond the confines of his glass prison, he is forever freed. Later, when the Lady of the Lake comes to the glass tower, all she finds is Merlin’s war horn and a small white crystal that, even in darkness, glows with an eerie unearthly light.
Musical Note: The melody of “Pavane of the White Peacock” is transcribed from a traditional Tibetan Buddhist melody called Leymon Tendrel.
music and story copyright © 2008