Featuring Kevin Craig West, vocal, and Rensselaer Contemporary Music Ensemble in a performance led by David Gibson. Video by Blair Neal. Recorded at EMPAC, Troy NY, Nov 18, 2008. Concert curated by Michael Century and co-produced with Laura Andruski, in the iEAR Presents series of the Rensselaer Department of the Arts.

The text of Coming Together is drawn from letters written from Attica State prison, in upstate New York, by the anti-war protester and member of the Weathermen underground, Sam Melville, during the first months of his incarceration in 1971. We follow his thought processes, starting always with a reflection on the relativity of the “speed of the passing time”, through descriptive details of prison life, leading ultimately to his affirmation that even with “the incessant noise…indifferent brutality… the ravings of lost, hysterical men—I can act”. Melville was one of dozens of inmates and guards killed in the Attica riot of 1971. Rzewski’s minimalist score is notated as a single pentatonic melody, building up additive melodic cells with shifting accents that cycle obsessively back to a common starting point. Each player selects which notes to play, and how long to sustain them, while keeping strictly to the order of the notes of the melody. This creates a shaped, yet in part indeterminate texture different in each performance. The spoken part was performed by noted Albany Capital District actor, Kevin Craig West, and a live-performed video accompaniment was provided by then-Electronic Arts MFA student, Blair Neal, based on archival footage from the New York State Archives.

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