We Cannot Be Afraid/Kindness Recitation by Renee' C. Baker
Graphic Score and concept by Renee' C. Baker (reneebakercomposer.net)
Interpretation and electronics by Anthony R. Green (anthonyrgreen.com)
Based on the poem: An Ex-Judge at the Bar by Melvin B. Tolson (poetryfoundation.org/poem/245196)
The instructions from Ms. Baker for realizing this piece are:
The score may be played in any order.
Read the text inspiration ... again and again ...
For the first half of the performance, restrain emotions.
For the second half of the performance, you must give rise and voice to angst as you internalise all injustices.
Your musical response is your duty.
For this realization, I created an electronic background, which is a modulation of my recorded voice reading the last line of the poem: "One for the Negro ... one for you and me." The poem implies that an ex-judge is sitting at a bar, feeling deep emotional confusion and anger and guilt while thinking about a Black man that he helped to lynch. The poem mentions his friends laughing, and alludes to an image of Justice laughing at him, but the poem also implies that the judge is not callous or an emotionless psychopath. His past action was probably a necessary step to become a judge. I can't help wonder what made him step down from the bench.
My interpretation contains much symbolism. Allusions of laughing, choking, screaming, voices of internal conflict, nostalgic melody, and more, are all purposefully woven into the interpretation. For me, the deepest aspect of realizing such works is finding personal meaning, and expounding upon it. The imagery that Ms. Baker created for the score evoked in my mind the images that the Black man in the poem may have seen as he was being suffocated by a noose, as he was dying. These images coupled with the words of the poem created a powerful emotional foundation for this interpretation.
We Cannot Be Afraid/Kindness Recitation was premiered at the meeting of the Société des musiciens extraordinaire (somextro.com), 22 November 2015, at Podium Vocale in Den Haag, the Netherlands. This audio is a mashup of the audio from the live performance, as well as a studio interpretation, mastered in Leiden, the Netherlands.
Special thanks to Itamar Ronen for holding down the damper pedal during the performance, Ruud Harte for saving my life with the electronics, and Maurice Verheul for providing a healthy platform for performing this magical piece.