torture memos (a survivor from guantánamo) (2009) for nine instruments


Screen shot 2009-10-21 at 9.53.30 PM

Since June, I’ve been composing a piece for two female voices, flute, bass clarinet, marimba, electric bass, violin, cello and piano. The piece is titled torture memos (a survivor from guantánamo) and is one of three works I’ve written with a political/social action title (the others being darfur pogrommen and zichron (in memory of bisan, maye, aya and nur abu al-aish)). As mentioned in an earlier post, I had considered setting poetry by torture victims in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantánamo, but the source poems didn’t grab me. Besides, I’m not sure the music would have done the poems justice.

So tonight I managed to put the final edits into the piece, so it’s completed. A few comments:

  • The piece is a bit of a departure from my recent music. At the same time, it’s also an evolution and natural progression. In other words, it still sounds like me, but it’s not a rehash of a lot of earlier works. So I suspect people will either love it or really hate it; there’s no middle ground. If you’re disappointed, no worries.
  • Don’t expect doom and gloom despite the title. This isn’t “program music.” In most ways, the title has nothing to do with the music.
  • While the wind and vocal parts are far easier than some I’ve written, in that there are rests and intentional spots to breathe, in some areas the performers are on their own; when they need to grab a breath, they can, since many of the parts are doubled.
  • No matter what I did, Finale 2010′s playback put in some unwritten and unwanted accents in some of the repeated eighth note sections. I gave up trying to solve this problem, since it seems unsolvable. It might be related to the ambience plugin, but without adding in resonance the audio file sounds worse than with ambience + accents, so I’m learning to live with it. Same thing happened in the final measures of ushabti, and it still drives me crazy.
  • The audio level is higher than it should be-the entire piece is actually p throughout, so feel free to listen at a low volume

The duration clocks in at just over 40 minutes. The audio file, such as it is, is here. The score (bass clarinet is written as it sounds) is here.

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