Last Breaths is a powerful setting of the final words of black men murdered because of their “otherness” and the suspicion is arose in their white (or white identifying) attackers.
In December, 2014, a grand jury in New York declared police officer Daniel Pantaleo not liable in the choking death of Eric Garner, a street vendor of "loosey" cigarettes who posed no violent threat to officer Pantaleo or those around him and was killed in a display of police arrogance and brutality that is sadly all too common (especially against African Americans) in the United States of America in the 21st century. A month before, the town of Ferguson, Missouri, a subdivision of St. Louis, where I spend a great deal of time, exploded in sometimes violent demonstrations when another grand jury acquitted police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown, who was unarmed. The Ferguson riots were not only an explosion of rage from an increasingly marginalized community, but also proved a demonstration of the increased militarization of police forces in the United States.
At the time, I did not tend to write a lot of specifically political pieces, but the events above are merely a drop in an increasingly bloody bucket that continues to overflow, five years on. They angered a lot of people, including myself. In Last Breaths, I join my voice in the outcry against these growing injustices. Last Breaths sets the last words of six young men killed by police in the last ten years. I hope it honors their memories in some small way, and it is to those memories, along with countless others', that this work is dedicated.
Dana Kaufman’s Preapõrutus (Concussion) is an autobiography of fear. The composer writes,
In Peapõrutus (Concussion), I aim to capture the philosophy so beautifully expressed by Leonard Bernstein: “This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.”
My “reply to violence” begins with a turbulent evening in Estonia.
On January 8, 2013, while on a Fulbright Student Research Grant in ethnomusicology and composition in Estonia, an anonymous attacker groped and assaulted me on a tram in Tallinn. The assailant, who punched me in the head, left the tram before anyone could stop him.
My “post-punch” confusion and even nervous laughter would end a few hours later with nausea, blurring eyes and a trip to the emergency room.
My brain scans and blood tests—thankfully—revealed no permanent damage, but it was clear I had a concussion. In the midst of the tests that would confirm this diagnosis, I lay on a hospital bed in the large emergency room, with a device on my finger connected to a monitor. Over and over, the monitor “beeped” out the same unsettling rhythm. I knew I had to write it down after returning home from the hospital.
That monitor rhythm is one of several elements related to this hospital experience incorporated in my piece, Peapõrutus (Concussion). The piece includes a pitch collection based on the number on my hospital bracelet (C C# D D# F F# A), an electronic tape with field recordings I later took in the hospital waiting room (including an unknown folk melody featured in an unknown TV program), a voice reading portions of my hospital report in Estonian, and so on.
Though the memory of my assailant will continue to lurk, rumination does not, and never will, yield justice. My hope, however, is that my piece serves as a response to my attacker, to this experience, and to the everyday violence far too many women often face. Peapõrutus (Concussion) aims to process traumatic experience through the arts, and illuminate the potential of music in 21st century womanhood.
Sonetos del amor oscuro (Sonnets of dark or hidden love)
The Sonetos del amor oscuro, (Sonnets of dark or hidden love) comprise some of the most fascinating parts of the output of Federico García Lorca. These cryptic sonnets depict an openly gay Lorca and a year-long, tempestuous relationship with a lover, believed now to be Castilian actor and political activist Juan Ramírez de Lucas.
In 1936, Lorca received political asylum from the Mexican Government and both he and Ramírez de Lucas made plans to leave for Mexico. Before he was able to escape, however, Lorca was summarily assassinated by a nationalist death squad (now known to have been operating under the direction of Generalissimo Franco) as punishment for homosexuality, his defense of the Roman Catholic Church (which found itself under increasing scrutiny from the ruling junta), and his outspoken artistic output. His body has never been recovered. The Sonetos, along with El Divan de Tamarit, comprise his final written work.
Originally withheld from publication by his heirs as part of a sanitization of his legacy, they were first published in 1983 in an unauthorized edition by an underground Andalusian queer newspaper. This unauthorized publication was quickly followed by an authorized edition in 1984.
Many thanks to the Fundación Federico García Lorca and Laura García Lorca for allowing the use of this text.