IN THE FIRE OF CONFLICT. For cello, percussion and audio playback. Commissioned by Toronto Summer Music. Texts in English by Steve Henry. 10 minutes. 2008. Score, parts and audio playback (in both 4.1 SurroundSound Audio DVD and Stereo CD) available through PROMETHEAN EDITIONS.

IN THE FIRE OF CONFLICT. For marimba and audio playback. Texts in English by Steve Henry. 10 minutes. 2008. Score, part and audio playback (in both 4.1 SurroundSound Audio DVD and Stereo CD) available through PROMETHEAN EDITIONS.

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Commissioned by Toronto Summer Music, IN THE FIRE OF CONFLICT was named after the title of the theme for the 2008 Toronto Summer Music festival. When Agnes Grossman, the Artistic Director of the festival made me aware of the theme, it felt appropriate for my state of mind at the time. I was becoming very concerned with the rise of gun violence in recent years in Toronto, my home city, but also with the constant rise of violence around the world in either organized conflicts, such as war, or spontaneous eruptions, exacerbated no doubt by food shortages, global warming and demographic explosion particularly in areas where daily survival is most difficult, and by the diminishing hope among the majority of people alive today that our current way of life can continue in its present form indefinitely.  

Although my own spiritual focus has always been on the incoming Aquarian eon, expected to be an eon of peace and spiritual enlightenment, I am also aware of the fact that we are still in the closing years of the Piscean age, the age of enantiodromia or conflict according to Carl Jung; that things will get worse before they get betterÖmuch worse; that there will come a time soon when our faith in God will be the only life vest that will protect us from drowning spiritually in the vast sea of hopelessness that surrounds us already. This is the story I wanted to tell through this work, but I wanted to say it not from the vantage point of spiritual certainty, but from the impenetrable darkness of someone struggling to stay afloat amidst this sea of hopelessness. As I was trying to determine how to enter and understand this state of mind, I remembered a visitor to my MySpace site a few months earlier, a American Christian rap group called Poetik Disciples.  

I have always been fascinated by the prosodic rhythmic discourse of hip-hop music, but certainly not by its implicit endorsement of misogyny and violence that one so often encounters in hip-hop lyrics. Poetik Disciples used the same musical techniques to essentially create devotional songs and that was very inspirational to me. I contacted the leader of the group, Steve Henry, who, as it turned out, had experienced personally the ďbottom of the wellĒ by way of gang violence, loss and incarceration, and asked him if he could help me with this project. A few days later he sent me some rap tracks which he created for this specific project and I knew then that my work would be very much emanating from his specific material which has been incorporated into the accompanying audio playback component of the piece. In the Fire of Conflict is the first work in which I have used rap music but I am sure it will not be the last. It is in two movements following one another without interruption and the two live instruments weave constantly around the rap lyrics often drawing their melodic contours from the prosodic contours of the spoken text.  

The work premiered on August 5 in Walter Hall at the University of Toronto by Denise Djokic, cello; Ryan Scott, percussion and was graced by the choreography and dance of Peggy Baker, one of Canadaís dance legends.


The Texts:

I canít smoke this away
I canít ease this pain
Itís dark,
I canít see my hands in front of my face
I turn around to face this invisible crowd.

Been stuck in one place for too long
Canít move on
All these places and faces
Erase the friend in me
Now Iím on my knees
Lord Please
Rescue me

I canít see, itís dark
I see a flame spark
I canít think. All I hear is dogs barking
I canít take the conflict.
I canít take the violence.
I canít take this blasphemy.

 I canít see, itís dark
I see a flame spark
I canít think. All I hear is these dogs;
Theyíre barking and digging for my soul.
Onto destruction I fall.

For me they set this trap
Along this dark path.
Confusion and persecution:
ďNothing left to luck?Ē I ask.
Out the belly of this flame, I call Your Name.
In the Fire of Conflict I call Your Name.

(Texts by Steve Henry)


Premiere performance: August 5, 2008, 8:00 PM. Denise Djokic, cello; Ryan Scott, percussion; Peggy Baker, choreography/dance. Toronto Summer Festival; Walter Hall, Faculty of Music, University of Toronto. Toronto, Canada.


Reviews and Comments:

I wish someone would invent new words of praise that I could use to say how much I loved your "rap" piece last night....we were introduced to a new world of "classical"  music incomparable in its concept, execution, in its genius. I thought all threeóno fouróperformers were perfectly gelled into a series of seamless yet edgy and, at times, frightening collisions keeping all of us on hot coals throughout. The inspiration  for this stunning work may have been unusual but in your hands it was transformed into a moving comment on what today's society can contribute to art. A masterpiece. Again, you amaze me and even if we don't agree on the direction in which the CBC is heading, if it decided today to only play Hatzis, I'd be plugged in 24/7. L. V. Toronto (Canada).

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