It's been a very interesting week. I was in Pittsburgh for my day job. Growing up just a couple of hours away, the region feels familiar in ways that are difficult to articulate. Maybe it's the people, the light, or the smell of the air, but it brings back memories.
I was listening to the local Public radio station, which is also the classical music station, I heard a familiar voice. It was a woman that I went to college with at Kent State University in the early to mid 1980's. We had many of the same classes together, but our paths took radically different directions. Hers was a more traditional path, continuing to Graduate school, etc. Mine, on the other hand, has been very non traditional, at least by today's standards. I ran out of money during my undergraduate phase with only a few elective classes to complete, and had to leave school for a semester, which turned into forever.
As I mentioned earlier, the last time I spent significant time in the region was in the 1980's, the height of the Cold War, when many in my generation were convinced the world was going to end in a nuclear holocaust. That feeling came rushing back to me as I heard in the news reports that North Korea had developed a missile that could have the capability of reaching the continental US.
I remember when the Berlin Wall finally came down and the Soviet Union began to crumble, we all thought maybe we could catch our breath. But, we were hit with a plague that began killing many of my friends at the time. By then, I had moved to Washington, D.C.. and had begun work on a Requiem. I completed the piece, but never did anything with it. There was no music notation software at that time, and by the time I thought of revisiting the piece, I had thoroughly abandoned organized religion. Still, I loved the opening melody.
It wasn't until HBO showed "The Normal Heart", that I was again thrust back in time and decided to take that fragment of melody, (the opening theme of the requiem), and turn it into something new. The work that came out was a reflection on how, when the incomprehensible and unimaginable happens, and we finally come out the other side, alive, how we, as people, and as a society, sometimes refuse to speak of it. I titled the piece After the Unspeakable".
Back to the present moment: Today, in the midst of all these familiar feelings, with World AIDS Day, and my room and mind filled with, as Poe so aptly put it "white robed forms of friends long given, in agony to the earth and heaven", I am reflecting on how different my life was then and now. I see how each event that transpired has brought me to where I am, and how all of it has been the fertile soil for my growth as a person, and as a composer.
With all that in mind, although this piece has not been recorded yet, I am including a link to the score in honor of World AIDS Day. Please enjoy it and play it if you like. After the Unspeakable