“The work is brilliantly innovative; the chorus is asked to stomp on the ground, evoking marching in chains, and the ensuing overlapping of the phrasing gives the impression of immense frustration and chaos.” — New York Concert Review
A compelling look at the timeless institution of human slavery — in the past, present and foreseeable future. This dramatic work pours forth with ferocity, urgency, wry humor and compassion, in a powerful litany of temptations, rationalizations and justifications. An unforgettable concert experience, and a rare opportunity for a choir to engage with a challenging, contemporary social issue.
I. The Sheer Possibility in the First Place
II. The Existence of Endless Prepositional Possibilities
III. An Unexamined Life
An interview with composer Elizabeth Alexander:
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My interest in slavery as an economic and cultural institution began with my desire to understand a dark chapter in United States history, but inevitably it led far beyond that. As this piece unfolds, its images and musical references make their way more and more into our own time, touching on our own passive participation in an economic system which is inherently dependent on human exploitation. Just as slavery is both ubiquitous and hidden, tucked into the corners of this piece you'll find echoes of music from many different times and places, including our own.
When I wrote Reasons for the Perpetuation of Slavery in 2010, choirs were not at all sure how to think about it; in fact, it was commissioned by a large consortium of women's choirs but only one found a way to program it on a concert. But in the years since, an increasing number of choirs have performed it,often at concerts and events directly addressing the causes and consequences of slavery and oppression. I believe this is the result of several changes: our society's increased willingness to look at the devastating economic reasons for slavery, the music community's greater acceptance of social protest as a legitimate theme for serious artistic expression, and choral musicians' desire to use their voices in a more outward-looking and forward-looking way.
“The highlight of the first half was Elizabeth Alexander’s Reasons for the Perpetuation of Slavery. Not only was the chorus completely invested in the music’s meaning, difficult rhythm and counterpoint, it was navigated with complete confidence and polish. The work is brilliantly innovative; the chorus is asked to stomp on the ground, evoking marching in chains, and the ensuing overlapping of the phrasing gives the impression of immense frustration and chaos.” — Anthony Aibel for New York Concert Review, Inc., on Distinguished Concerts International Concert at Avery Fisher Hall, March 1, 2012
“We performed Reasons for the Perpetuation of Slavery at our concert last Saturday, and it was EXTREMELY well received. In fact, there were about 10 seconds of silence after we finished before the applause began. It's such a powerful piece of music, and so well written. The way you set the text makes it very easy for the singers to bring out the words and the importance of them.” — Jessica Corbin, Artistic Director of Bella Voce Singers (Brooklyn, NY)
“I must admit, I was very intimidated by the piece. I was responsible for conducting it in our…concert as well as guiding the girls through the learning process, and it pushed everyone to sharpen their skills. Once we all finally just committed ourselves to bringing musical life to the piece (on many different levels), we were hooked. It's a wonderful work. It has propelled all of us to a different place both musically and in our perception of the world around us. In a good way - the piece is haunting.” — Wendee Wolf-Schlarf, Music Director of Vocal Majority of Traverse City Central High School (Traverse City, MI)
Cantala Women's Chorus / Phillip Swan
Lawrence University (Appleton, WI) * Premiere
Bella Voce Singers / Jessica Corbin (Brooklyn, NY)
Distinguished Concerts International, New York (DCI-NY)
Hilary Apfelstadt ~ Avery Fisher Hall (New York City, NY)
Gettysburg College Women's Choir
Robert Natter (Gettysburg, PA)
Miami University Choraliers
William Bausano ~ Miami University (Oxford, OH)
Traverse City High School Vocal Majority / Wendee Wolf-Schlarf
Michigan School Vocal Music Association State Solo and Ensemble (Walled Lake, MI)