The title of this piece refers to an important episode in our country’s history. Abu Ghraib, while inscribed on our nation’s consciousness by photographs and reports, has been absorbed into the nation’s bloodstream, its long term effects yet to be known.
[My piece is not a protest or moral lesson. These would require little bravery. Instead it seeks music in a moment when words can fail.]
There are two movements, separated by a pause: Scene I. Prayer I; Scene II., Prayer II
. Each Prayer begins with the violoncello playing alone.
, in its harmonic details, investigates infection and wrongness. Then, in a less rebarbative language, Prayer I
begins a tentative plea for help beyond ourselves.
is based on an Iraqi song which I was hired to transcribe back in 1962, for a collection called Lullabies of the World (I was asked to transform its bent pitches and asymmetrical rhythms into “American family-sing form.”) This song is shown to have connections to two of our well-known hymns. Prayer II
again suggests that by entering a difficult meditative world we may find courage to face our own Shadow.
This piece was composed for performance by Rhonda Rider and David Deveau.
– John Harbison