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A war of aggression. Oppression. Racism. Human rights. And in the midst of this, we’re required to celebrate America’s “greatness.”
I’m not talking about now — were you thinking that? No, no — not now . . . this was the 1960s. Remember that? Vietnam. Black power. Liberation. Women. Gays. People of color.
How can music, art, theatre even begin to make a difference now? How could it possibly have made a difference then?
Frederick Rzewski, John Cage, Salvatore Martirano thought it could.
In response to the Attica prison uprising, Frederick Rzewski conceived a pair of works — Coming Together and Attica — theatre? music? improvised? composed? — which incorporate narratives written by the prisoner Sam Melville. In the first, an improvising ensemble gradually finds a common voice, driven by a pulse that commands “Resist! Resist!”; in the second, the same ensemble abandons pulse and unity to discover harmony in plurality.
In response to the forced enthusiasm of the American bicentennial in 1976, John Cage created Lecture on the Weather. He required that the twelve performers be American males who had become citizens of Canada: draft resisters, persons who had been driven into exile. They read excerpts from Thoreau, who called for Civil Disobedience at a time of American oppression. And they are gradually overtaken by a thunderstorm that gathers, breaks, and disperses. Metaphor? Parable? Or an invitation.
In response to the Vietnam War, Salvatore Martirano produced L’s GA, which juxtaposes film and audio — flowers blooming, bodies burning, opera arias, the sounds of war — with a gas-masked politico who intones Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address while gradually getting juiced on helium. Irony? Humor? Disgust? Or a protest?
Then and now. Music and war. Smugness and resistance.
Make your choice.
Come together to experience these epic pieces of artful protest:
Come together to see a new way. Come together to resist. Come together to let your voice be heard.