You Aren’t Who I Expected: A new piece for alto flute, cello and tape
Paul Wolfram and Maria Johnson, of the cello and flute duo Migrations, commissioned a piece from me in 2014, and I wrote a piece that includes pre-recorded audio of me reading a text I wrote for the piece. They perform it tonight in Brooklyn, NY! Here are the program notes:
“You Aren’t Who I Expected” grew from an image that forced its way into my mind soon after the terror attacks in Paris and Beirut in late 2015. As I listened to the stories about the shootings and bombings on the radio, I was suddenly confronted with the vision of some version of myself face to face with a suicide bomber who had “blue skin, a pale, almost purple color like the sky in the morning in the winter,” as I wrote in the piece. Surprisingly, we were alone, close enough to touch the tips of our fingers together, in some nondescript place, not a place with rushing crowds like you’d expect. He had orange eyes, yellow hair, and red teeth, and he was impossible to ignore.
As I spent more time thinking about this image, building a story around it, and trying to understand what it meant, I felt more and more as if I was staring into a mirror, rather than into the eyes of an evil person. I imagined him in scenes from my own childhood, reacting to his changing surroundings in the same way I did. I found he was a human being with his own story, but it was intertwined with mine.
But, to say terrorists are just like the rest of us just wouldn’t be right, because it isn’t true. However, we can’t go to the other extreme, and pretend that we can bomb terrorism out of the world. There are no easy solutions, only a unending series of hard choices. We’ll never make the right ones if we can’t recognize the humanity of every person who may suffer the consequences of our actions.
This piece isn’t meant as simply a political statement, though it is one. It is meant as an examination of humanity, of fatherhood, of race, of justice, of violence, of dreams, and how we are meant to find their meaning. I hope that the music and text woven together will help you to hear the story as I saw it, as a dream that carries a deep meaning, even if you don’t know exactly what it is.
The details of the performance are here.