Ensemble: speaking saxophonist and speaking percussionist
R.I.P.T. (2014) for speaking saxophonist and percussionist was the first in a series of compositions inspired by material objects that encapsulate the social paradigms that produced them.
My inspiration was an NPR/WLRN Miami Herald story by Nadege Green [http://www.wlrn.org/post/remembering-fallen-young-men-rip-t-shirts] about a prospering local business that sold memorial T-shirts with the faces of slain young people. One woman described having over two dozen of these shirts; a young man told of so many deaths one month that a collage shirt with 20 faces was made. I came from poverty and know Miami street life from experience. However, the implications of Green’s story, where a relatively small community could keep this business viable, illuminated the magnitude of the ongoing tragedy in ways that my current liberal beliefs, mainstream media, and firsthand memories no longer did.
I became obsessed with material objects – T-shirts, price tags, hats, videos – that communicated entire social paradigms more broadly, eloquently, and immediately than the systematically dehumanized stories on conventional news outlets. As Green did for me, I wanted to present a powerful alternative perspective for my audiences, reframing these objects through music to reconsider the human truths that produced them. My goal is to use art to leave a lasting impression and generate new conversations that might lead us to solutions.
My sonic model for R.I.P.T. was this type of object: a graphic song about gun violence. In the worst kind of irony, it was the song playing when a parking lot altercation over the volume escalated into a middle-aged adult shooting and killing an unarmed teenager in Florida. I spectrally derived the pitches for freely composed saxophone melodies and combined them with percussive drive and color from my rock/punk background. Generic fragments of the text are meant to conjure a wide range of legal and illegal gun use: from gangs to the military; for personal defense or hunting; for revenge or murder.
R.I.P.T. was written for Bent Frequency Duo: Jan Baker and Stuart Gerber.
Jan Baker, saxophone
Stuart Gerber, percussion
Bent Frequency Duo
Commissioners: Stuart Gerber and Jan Baker