Wednesday, June 3, 2020

a child of our time

Every once in a while, classical music produces a powerful choral work that sets, in a moving and effective musical idiom, texts that speak directly and vividly to the time and place of the work's creation.

Leonard Bernstein's Mass (1971) is such a work, as is Michael Tippett's A Child of Our Time (1941), and perhaps Karl Jenkins' The Armed Man (1999) also qualifies.

Though much shorter than these (15 minutes), Joel Thompson's Seven Last Words of the Unarmed (2015) is such a work for our time.

The title is a reference to Joseph Haydn's Seven Last Words of Christ, and its structure inspired this. Its seven brief movements set, for accompanied male chorus, final words of seven African-American men who were killed by police or vigilantes - either wantonly or needlessly, or, even if the claims to be justified might be believed, still revealing deep-seated racism and incompetence in police behavior.

In order of their appearance in the work, the seven men are:
Kenneth Chamberlain (2011)
Trayvon Martin (2012)
Amadou Diallo (1999)
Michael Brown (2014)
Oscar Grant (2009)
John Crawford (2014)
Eric Garner (2014)

Here's a performance:

This work has been around for five years, and I'm astonished that I hadn't heard of it before. It should be performed more widely. Listen to it.

No comments:

Post a Comment