back to Open Canvas Productions

 

 

Emancipation: The Dream of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

As the title indicates, this piece is based on Dr. King's famous "I have a dream" speech given as the closing address of the March for Jobs and Freedom held in Washington D.C. on August 23rd, 1963. While I certainly I hope I have written music that can be enjoyed in-and-of itself, the piece perhaps cannot be understood outside its relationship to the speech. The piece is split into four movements, with the titles indicating the section of the speech the music is meant to correspond to. That being said, it is perhaps important to note that the music is not meant to correspond to the speech exactly--i.e. the music does not "translate" each and every word of the speech. Rather, I have attempted to garner the larger ideas Dr. King was after in each section and somehow translate those into music. The purpose of the titles, then, is not only to ostensibly link the speech to the music, but to give a clue as to how they are related as well. The opening movement, "I am happy to join with you today..." is for string quartet and the music is meant to highlight one idea only: joining. The title is Dr. King's opening words and, while this particular section of the speech is really just introductory material and of little rhetorical importance, the idea of joining is an important theme throughout the speech. So, though Dr. King's remark is meant casually in the context of the speech, it nonetheless introduces an important idea. The second movement, "Five-score years ago...But one hundred years later..." is perhaps the start of the speech proper, as Dr. King begins by stating the problem--a standard beginning for any argument. The movement is for a jazz quintet comprised of a soprano sax, guitar, piano, bass, and drums, and, of all the movements, this movement perhaps has the most abstract--if not cryptic--connection to the speech. It is entirely composed and uses a very restrictive musical language, however that aspect is perhaps seen in analysis rather than heard in listening. The intention being to write "jazz" that is not actually "jazz," mirroring Dr. King's sentiments on the freedom of African-Americans in the USA at that time. The third movement, "But we refuse to believe..." brings the two groups together: the string quartet and the jazz quintet. Much of what Dr. King talks about in this part of the speech is about moving forward in the fight for civil rights (and for "brotherhood" in general) in a very conscious and deliberate way. The music is meant to mimic that through an extended use of functional seventh chords with an altered bass. Finally, the fourth movement, also with both groups playing,  corresponds to the final part of the speech, which I deemed to begin with the line "...I still have a dream..." In this movement, unlike the other three, what the music "is" is not as important as what the music does--i.e. the music's connection to the speech is rooted in the structure of the piece and not the notes or the style. With all that said,  I hope you enjoy Emancipation. For those of you that would like to listen to the speech, the link below is to a site that has an audio recording you can listen to:

http://www.hpol.org/record.php?id=72

 

"I am happy to join with you today..." (Allegro Moderato) 6:34

 

Download

 

Five-score years ago...But one hundred years later..." (Half-time Groove) 6:42

 

Download

 

But we refuse to believe..." (Slow 9:20

 

Download

 

"...I still have a dream..." (Medium Swing) 13:22

 

Download