Welcome back to New Music Monday, 2020 Pride Edition. This week I want to share a piece by Zachery Meier that I had the pleasure of hearing performed at the 2020 TUTTI Festival at Denison University. Meier is a composer & flutist, and recently completed his Ph.D. in Music Composition at the University of Iowa while serving as a Visiting Instructor at Denison University in Granville, OH.
This week’s piece, “Prayer for Tranquility” was composed in response to the Pulse Nightclub shooting, which heavily impacted the queer Latinx community of Orlando. The single-gunman massacre killed 49 people and left 53 injured. This piece left a big impression on me, hearing it on that March afternoon in Ohio. I found the gossamer timbral effects astonishingly beautiful, but I was unexpectedly struck with the weight of the subject matter as I read the program note and realized it was about a tragedy that happened in the city I currently call home. I was reminded of the Bernstein quote that followed the JFK assassination: “This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.”
Check out the recording below, read by the JACK Quartet. I am also including Meier’s program note from the TUTTI program below.
On June 12, 2016, an attack was made on the LGBTQ+ community. As no amount of words could ever fully give justice or peace to the families and friends of those victims, this is my prayer dedicated to those who survived, to the heroes who risked their lives, and to the tragic loss of loved ones who will be remembered.
The piece was created through the contrasting ideas of instability and structure. In contrasting these ideas, I wanted to create an atmosphere that resembled the experience of the “unknown” within a familiar place. As I have never encountered something as traumatizing as being physically trapped in a seemingly inescapable, unknown place that was once so intimately familiar, I drew upon what feelings provoked me while reading and listening to the stories of these survivors. A hymn like melodic line surfaces above this atmosphere, weaving its way over and through the highly active and textually unstable material, resembling that of the shimmer of hope that will carry one through this traumatizing experience, praying for tranquility. As the piece comes to a close, the closing gesture is meant to resemble the human breath, realized in the dynamic swells of the ensemble, leading to the last statement of the opening material.