I. Gone In Fifteen - score preview
II. Threnody For St. Nicholas - score preview
III. Free-Will Offerings - score preview
There have been many musical compositions written in response to the horrific attacks upon New York City and Washington, D.C. on September 11, 2001. Undoubtedly, there will be quite a few more as anniversaries pass. It was with a great deal of soul searching that I decided to write about this terrible moment in history. At first, I felt as though I had no business writing about 9/11. What did I know of the pain and suffering that so many had endured? Anything I wrote would seem altogether inadequate; small and provincial. Yet, as a creative artist, I felt a need to deal with the enormity of my emotions and thoughts concerning the attacks. And though I have no frame of reference for what it was to have endured that terrible day firsthand, as an American I join the rest of the country in the realization that it was all of us who were attacked. This work, then, is one person’s personal response. It is offered with deep respect to those who lost their lives or their loved ones on that dark day.
The piece, itself, is based upon a poem that I wrote a few months after September 11. I used certain elements of the text to construct the general scope of the work but refrained from setting the piece in a more literal, programmatic way. The title of the first movement, Gone In Fifteen, is taken from the surreal morning of 9/11. I had just returned home from taking my son to kindergarten and had been listening to the news on the way home. All seemed perfectly normal. I arrived at my house around 8:35 in the morning. And after a brief time, I turned on the television as I dressed for the day. On the screen, I saw the sickening sight of the first tower in flames. It had only been fifteen minutes or so since I had turned off the news. It seemed as though the whole world had changed in just those few minutes. The movement tries to capture my shock and growing realization of what was happening as I sat numbly in front of the television. The music is sometimes disconnected, abstract; almost dream-like with sudden violent outbursts throughout.
In the last stanza of my poem, I allude to the destruction of the small Greek Orthodox Church of St. Nicholas. The church was just beneath the World Trade Center and was obliterated when the towers collapsed. It was the only house of worship destroyed on 9/11. The second movement, Threnody for St. Nicholas, is an attempt to both remember the parish and to also remind myself that not all precious things are large and impressive to the eye. The movement makes use of several hymns from the Greek Orthodox Memorial Service as the sources for most of the musical material presented.
The third and final movement, Free-Will Offerings, concerns itself with a thought that occupied me (as well as many others) in the initial aftermath of the attacks. If there is a God, how could He allow such horrible evil to occur? The title of this movement again is taken from the poem I wrote concerning 9/11. The idea of “free-will offerings” itself was taken from the words of a priest spoken days after the event. At a liturgy, the priest reminded those gathered that God created man with free will. Humanity is at liberty to choose to do evil or good. He then drew parallels between the freely made choices of the terrorists in contrast to the many who freely chose to storm up burning steps to save lives or, as airline passengers, thwarted more destruction through selfless acts of bravery. The music in the movement, therefore, sets up large contrasts between dynamics and texture throughout. The music is not programmatic in the sense that one musical attribute is meant to represent evil while another is meant to represent goodness. Rather, the use of the contrasting sections is meant to simply invite the listener to think about the very different motivations displayed through actions on September 11.
Another Sky To Dwell In (2002)
[looking at the skyline of New York City – September 12, 2001]
There is another sky to dwell in
Filled with a great emptiness –
where yesterday was
There is another heart to care for
Having not even the slightest motion -
pierced… waiting to breathe…
They say this is the sky of a different world -
An earth forever changed
There is a certain antiquity to this moment
Now, another memory to hold on to –
Free-will offerings made -
a few peddling evil… many more bestowing mercy
The Faith of the Holy Saint -
whose church is gone -
yet, whose God remains