This program is a little different for Taikoz. For one, I'll be making my conducting debut! But more importantly, Taikoz (and friends) are tackling a minimalist 1970s classic masterpiece - Fred Rzewski's 'Coming Together'.
The work is not originally composed for taiko, but rather takes the form of a (very funky) bass line that Rzewski gives instructions on how to interpret and arrange for a mixed ensemble of instruments. I have loved this music for a long time - and performed it back in my Synergy days - and have been looking for a chance to play it again. We will also be performing Rzewski's companion piece, Attica. I am thrilled that we have none other than ex-Bangarra performer Waangenga Blanco delivering the very powerful text.
Here is some background to the work...
Text by Sam Melville:
"I think the combination of age and the greater coming together is responsible for the speed of the passing time. it's six months now and i can tell you truthfully few periods in my life have passed so quickly. i am in excellent physical and emotional health. there are doubtless subtle surprises ahead but i feel secure and ready. As lovers will contrast their emotions in times of crisis, so am i dealing with my environment. in the indifferent brutality, incessant noise, the experimental chemistry of food, the ravings of lost hysterical men, i can act with clarity and meaning. i am deliberate--sometimes even calculating--seldom employing histrionics except as a test of the reactions of others. i read much, exercise, talk to guards and inmates, feeling for the inevitable direction of my life."
Note by Fred Rzewski:
As I read it I was impressed both by the poetic quality of the text and by its cryptic irony. I read it over and over again. It seemed that I was trying both to capture a sense of the physical presence of the writer, and at the same time to unlock a hidden meaning from the simple but ambiguous language. The act of reading and rereading finally led me to the idea of a musical treatment.
About Sam Melville:
In June 1970, Sam Melville pleaded guilty to a series of politically motivated bombings in New York City and was sentenced to from 13 to 18 years in jail. His prison odyssey took him from the Federal House of Detention to the Tombs to Sing Sing, and finally to Attica, where he helped lead the massive rebellion of September 9, 1971, and where, four days later, he was shot to death by state police.
Those who knew Sam before he was jailed and his brothers in prison found him a man of extraordinary courage and determination, who rather than accede or submit to injustice and racism chose to fight against them. Some have compared him to John Brown.
During nearly two years in prison, Sam wrote letters to his friends, his attorneys, his former wife, his young son. Collected after his death, these letters were not written for publication. To read them is to eavesdrop on a man's soul. Determinedly honest and deeply moving, they reveal much about Sam and evoke sharply the suffering of prisoners in America.
The letters are introduced by two profiles of Sam. Both offer explanations of who Sam was and why he chose to live—and die— as he did. Jane Alpert, who was living with Sam when both were arrested on bombing charges, writes of Sam's background and personality; Jane jumped bail to avoid imprisonment and is now a fugitive. John Cohen, a close friend who visited Sam in jail until Sam's death, describes how Sam changed during his prison years. Cohen, basing his analysis on information gathered by investigators who talked with prisoners, charges that Sam was deliberately executed by the state.
Sam's prison letters begin with despair but end in hope and defiance. He became a leader of the prisoners' struggle for justice and human treatment. At Attica he fought against and was a victim of the state's brutality. And it was there that he died.