We Will Know (2013)
I. Hymn: 4'
II. In Memoriam: 2'30"
III. Meditation: ca. 13' (variable)
IV. May 9th, 2012: 5'
solos: voice (mvmt. I), all winds (mvmt. 3)
No significant social movement is without its soundtrack. “We Will Know” is my artistic contribution to and social commentary on the fight for equal rights of LGBT persons. I was first inspired to raise my voice publicly in the name of equality by the launch of syndicated columnist and author Dan Savage’s inspiring and highly successful “It Gets Better Project.” After numerous failed attempts to sound intelligible in my own “It Gets Better” video, I decided instead to provide a contribution in musical form. I realized that, save for a few club-thumping chart-toppers, the LGBT community lacked a universal rallying song – one that can be sung in times of celebration, reflection, mourning and protest.
The first movement, "Hymn", is intended to meet that need. It is a simple melody with universally applicable lyrics that acknowledge troubled times while looking forward and finding strength and solidarity in our fellow man to build a better, more inclusive, accepting and empathetic tomorrow. My hope for this song is that it lives on long after me, becoming a source of strength and unity for any person or persons who seek comfort in its prose.
The second movement, "In Memoriam", is a brief elegy written to commemorate the numerous LGBT people in the world who are prisoners to their hostile environments, and for those who have lost their lives to ignorance and fear. Harvey Milk. Teena Brandon. Matthew Shepard. Mark Carson. To the millions of lives lost, and to those abandoned by the Reagan Administration’s adopted silence during the AIDS crisis of the 1980s. You will not be forgotten.
The third movement, "Meditation", is about catharsis. Purposefully (and somewhat paradoxically) drawing from the black American church tradition as well as the free jazz movement of the 1950s and 60s, this movement is designed as a safe space via a hypnotic groove in which the listener and performer alike are able to express themselves, fully feeling whatever it is they need to feel. Only reading a few written cues, the musicians testify collectively as they are so moved, much like the testimonial portion of a black church service. This movement culminates in a group singing of the original hymnsong, performed freely over the groove and led by the lead cantor. The silence that follows the final perfect fifth intoned by the bass is intentional; it provides the listener an opportunity to fully absorb what has transpired over the last ten minutes, and readies the listener for the finale.
The fourth movement, "May 9th, 2012", commemorates the day that President Barack Obama publicly declared his support for same-sex marriage, becoming the first American president in American history to do so. The bombast of the opening statement recalls the feeling of elation and mania that surrounded the event. The music gradually calms into a feeling of “afterglow” which features a floating interpretation of the hymnsong first alone, then set as a counterpoint to members of the band singing Charles Albert Tinsley’s iconic song of the Civil Rights Movement “We Shall Overcome.” This final movement culminates in a jubilant reharmonization of “We Shall Overcome.”
An aside: I fully acknowledge the implications of evoking the black American church, the most prominent song of the Civil Rights Movement, and the institution of jazz as inspiration, source material and backdrop for a piece touting LGBT rights. My hope is that the existence of this work and its aggressive juxtaposition of these spheres will catalyze meaningful discussions and lasting change surrounding principles of universal empathy and a singular human story.
Our work continues.