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Attica

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Frederic Rzewski

Frederic Rzewski


Subtitle: Coming Together Part II


General Info

Year: 1976 / 2008?
Duration: Varies
Difficulty: (see Ratings for explanation)
Publisher: Frog Peak Music
Cost: Score and Parts - $15.00


Instrumentation

The instrumentation is open and the piece can be performed by any number of players, though usually 8-10.


Errata

None discovered thus far.


Program Notes

Attica, subtitled Coming Together Part II, was originally intended to follow Coming Together after a short silence, so that the two pieces together would form a pair of dark and light images on the same subject. In this case, it is a survivor of the event who speaks: Richard X. Clark, a prisoner who was freed on parole several weeks after the massacre. As the car taking him to Buffalo passed the Attica town line, the reporter sitting next to him asked how it felt to leave Attica behind him. His answer, “Attica is in front of me,” became the text for this piece.

In 1971, a riot broke out at the Attica Correctional Facility in upstate New York, demanding improved health care, sanitation, and food, as well as an end to beatings. Four days of tense negotiations followed, culminating in the storming of the prison by state police as ordered by Governor Nelson Rockefeller. At least 43 people died, including 33 prisoners.

One of those was Samuel Melville. A book of letters he wrote from prison was posthumously published, and Rzewski took his text for Coming Together from Melville’s letter of May 16, 1971 (which was first published separately in a magazine):

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.

“As I read it, I was impressed both by the poetic quality of the text and by its cryptic irony,” Rzewski wrote. “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.”

This treatment is the recitation of the text, a few words at a time, over a driving pentatonic bass line of steady 16th notes. The instrumentation is open and the piece can be performed by any number of players, though usually 8-10. Only the bass line is notated; all of the other parts are derived from it in ways specified by the composer. The overall form is also clearly defined, as are dynamics and articulation.

- Program Note by John Henken for Los Angeles Philharmonic concert program


Samuel Joseph Melville (born Samuel Joseph Grossman, 1934 – September 13, 1971), was the principal conspirator and bomb setter in the 1969 bombings of eight government and commercial office buildings in New York City. Melville cited his opposition to the Vietnam War and U.S. imperialism as the motivation for the bombings. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy and to bombing the Federal Office Building in lower Manhattan, as well as to assaulting a marshal in a failed escape attempt. A key figure in the 1971 Attica Prison riots, he was shot and killed when the uprising was put down by force.

- Program Note from Wikipedia


Commercial Discography

None discovered thus far.


State Ratings

None discovered thus far.


Performances

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Works for Winds by this Composer


Resources