Horticulture Scientist Composes “Song of the Rose”
In the art world, a rose thorn to the heart is sometimes required to achieve a place of beauty.
That takeaway message from Oscar Wilde’s 1888 short story “The Nightingale and the Rose” strikes a new chord in “Song of the Rose,” a newly released piece of music composed by University of Florida horticulture research scientist Sonya Leonore Stahl.
The song is available for physical purchase here on the album Red Dragonfly (Mark Custom 56133) and will be available on various digital platforms on January 14th. The recording features two UF School of Music Assistant Professors, Jemmie Robertson on trombone, and Jasmin Arakawa on piano.
In Wilde’s story, a man becomes enchanted with a woman he meets at a party. But she’ll only return his affections if he gives her a perfect red rose – a plant currently out of season.
A nightingale overhears the request and takes pity on the man. She sacrifices herself for his happiness and her blood eventually transforms into the red rose. “Metaphorically speaking, you can see this as an act of self-sacrifice for art,” Stahl said.
Stahl, a violinist, originally wrote the work for clarinet as an undergraduate student at UF nearly two decades ago but put it down after graduation. The verses follow the storyline from pastoral to passion to pain.
The trombone signifies the nightingale. The piano, the rosebush.
“It’s a really sad piece, but it makes me happy because, I’m saying something,” Stahl said. “This is what it means to give yourself for something beautiful.”
At UF, Stahl’s career involves sparing anguish – for both produce growers and consumers. She works as a biologist in the horticultural sciences department discovering new ways to make fruits and vegetables last longer – from packaging to post-harvest technology. “Think about how much yummy stuff gets lost due to various things like chill injury, pathogens, or lack of proper refrigeration,” Stahl said.
Eager to share the spotlight, Stahl called Robertson the real maestro of this music. “Dr. Robertson’s sensitive artistry really glows, whether he’s playing something powerful or something gentle. It’s a huge privilege to have my creation brought to life by virtuosos like him and Dr. Arakawa—even though it’s a sad piece, they bring me joy.”
Robertson previously released three other solo albums. His musical resume includes experience in symphony orchestras, operas, chamber music, solo recitals, and as a musician in the U.S. Air Force.