© 2017 by Phantom Brass

A Musical Response to Tragedy

August 18, 2017

Throughout history, music has been used as a method of remembrance, a lifeline through dark days and as a way to heal after incredible tragedy. Below, I present Three pieces that have been written in that context. Leave a comment below if you resonated with any of them, or you feel another should be added to this list. 

1.) Holocaust Suite IV: Babi Yar - Morton Gould

 

Babi Yar is a ravine in Kiev, Ukraine in which tens of thousands of Jews, prisoners of war, communists, Ukrainian nationalists, and Roma were marched into and massacred during WWII. The largest massacre of these took place on September 29th and 30th, 1941 when over 30,000 Jews were slaughtered. Morton Gould has captured the intensity of this moment with a slow, dreary, and consistent tempo, while building on his use of dissonance throughout the movement. 
 

 

2.) An American Elegy - Frank Ticheli

 

Frank Ticheli's own program notes are of most use here: 

"An American Elegy is, above all, an expression of hope. It was composed in memory of those who lost their lives at Columbine High School on April 20, 1999, and to honor the survivors. It is offered as a tribute to their great strength and courage in the face of a terrible tragedy. I hope the work can also serve as one reminder of how fragile and precious life is and how intimately connected we all are as human beings. I was moved and honored by this commission invitation, and deeply inspired bythe circumstances surrounding it. Rarely has a work revealed itself to me with such powerful speed and clarity. The first eight bars of the main melody came to me fully formed in a dream. Virtually every element of the work was discovered within the span of about two weeks. The remainder of my time was spent refining, developing, and orchestrating. The work begins at the bottom of the ensemble's register, and ascends gradually to a heartfelt cry of hope. The main theme that follows, stated by the horns, reveals a more lyrical, serene side of the piece. A second theme, based on a simple repeated harmonic pattern, suggests yet another, more poignant mood. These three moods - hope, serenity, and sadness - become intertwined throughout the work, defining its complex expressive character. A four-part canon builds to a climactic quotation of the Columbine Alma Mater. The music recedes, and an offstage trumpeter is heard, suggesting a celestial voice - a heavenly message. The full ensemble returns with a final, exalted statement of the main theme."

 

 

3.) When David Heard - Eric Whitacre

When David Heard was dedicated to Dr. Ronald Staheli, the conductor of the BYU Singers after the loss of his son. The text itself is taken from a biblical passage that describes the moment when King David heard about his son, Absalom- being slain. Powerful in its simplicity of text and masterful in its use of dissonance and suspensions, Eric Whitacre not only captures the immense pain of loss, but honors the memory of Dr. Staheli's son. 
 

 

 

 

 

 

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