After a fabulous evening of good feeling culminating with the Songs of the Rolling Earth concert, we woke to some really sad news. The nation is in mourning. The mass shooting in Orlando cast a dark shadow on our psyche. Perpetrated by the few, provided with freedom and liberty yet choosing to forsake that gift, to the detriment of many. Indeed, we have lost many good people. Individuals like us, or maybe not. But they were enjoying life, an evening of lightness, not knowing it would be their last. They were friends, lovers, parents, siblings, sons and daughters. Special people, creative people, productive people. People I would have most likely never have known in life. But now, now I want to know everything there is to know about them as a way of honoring their legacy.
This year's American Music Festival's theme was "Earth," yet a subtext could easily have been "inclusion," for there was much depth, dimension and variety. The full spectrum of the American musical landscape was represented - classical, experimental, jazz, electronic, world music, etc. I admit, I can't relate to it all. And that's ok: you don't have to feel like you must like everything, but keep an open mind and you will be pleasantly surprised. I know that works for me. "Simple Songs," Aaron Jay Kernis' composition - a compilation of texts on spirituality drawn from Western and Eastern traditions, took on added significance in light of today's events.
The piece, an abstraction about the common threads that unite us as spiritual beings, turned palpable, real, and relevant. Reflecting on the crystal clear vocals of Talise Trevigne: "Blessed are the man and that woman who have grown beyond their greed and have put an end to their hatred," the message is arrestingly poignant. Even in mans' darkest hours, music is a constant. It has the capacity to reflect, comfort and lift spirits. Inevitably, a formal compositional response will address this discordant period in our collective consciousness. Now is not the time, but I fervently believe that musical events like the 2016 American Music Festival are powerful forces for positive social change, and are worthy of our support.
Dr. Arthur Falk of Slingerlands, NY
Albany Symphony Patron