Respecting the First

Instrumentation: Amplified String Quartet and electronic playback
Duration: 14:55
Commission: Fromm Foundation for the Cassatt Quartet
Premiere: 10/13/11
Cassatt Quartet
Leonard Nimoy Thalia Theatre, Symphony Space, New York, NY

Program Note:
Respecting the First, a Fromm commission for the Cassatt Quartet is scored for amplified string quartet and electronics fashioned from readings of and about the First Amendment. Composing the piece took on special significance in the aftermath of the attack on Gabrielle Giffords and those tragically killed and wounded when trying to peaceably assemble at her open meeting on 1/8/11 at a supermarket in Casa Adobes, Arizona. The piece is dedicated to her and includes a fragment of her reading of the First Amendment on the Floor of the House of Representatives, just days before the attack. The complete amendment says: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or the free practice thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

I thank the following for their kind participation: Joe Adkins, Megan England, Bérengère Petit, Aurie Hsu, Osayuwame Ikhinmwin, Steve Kemper Michael Kubovy, Sarah O’Halloran, Eric Shatin, Michael C. Terrell, Peter Traub, and Suan Yang. Thanks are also due to my University of Virginia colleagues Brad Brown, Principal, International Residential College, and Associate General Counsel Madelyn Wessel. I included brief comments by public figures as well, including President Kennedy, U.S. Representative Barney Frank, New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, and folk singer Pete Seeger, as well as fragments of town hall meetings and news reports extending as far back as the proposed Nazi march in Skokie, IL in 1978 and up to recent events in 2011. The music reflects and comments on the verbal rhythms of the words, and alludes to traditional songs of our common heritage. –JS


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