Memorial, Part 2: The Attack

The “September Morning” section of Memorial begins in peace and serenity, evoking the beauty of a clear day with no threat of rain in the sky.  The first part of the sectionis easy to sing, with familiar notes, intervals and rests.

Shortly after the G# comes in low bass against the chords in D, and some troubling transitional chords, the chorus sings some figures which Clausen told us “should sound scary and shocked.”  These sounds of fear and shock followed by each section wailing the ancient Hebraic name of God: “Adonai!” It is a calling on God in the face of the unbelievable, the unthinkable and the unimaginable.  More wordless disturbed parts follow, ending in an atonal chord overlaid by a wordless high-pitched scream from the chorus.

The percussion then plays two eighth notes followed by three beats of  silence and then two more eighth notes. This passage indicates the collisions of the aircraft with the Twin Towers. The orchestra moves into a rapid eighth note section which can best be described as agitated.  The choir reenters, singing the syllables of “Adonai” with a pause before the last syllable. The effect is that of someone who is calling on God breathlessly, in great shock at what he or she has witnessed and unable to say anything more. After a short trouble instrumental passage the women sing “Adonai” in  chant-like fashion while the men sing the opening to the 22nd Psalm: “O God, why hast thous forsaken me?” The entire chorus picks up this cry in four parts, “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?”

The next section is eerie and difficult for trained singers to produce. The sounds are not produced on a pitch and rise and fall randomly. Dr. Clausen commented that this sound was not singing: it was the wailing of humans who are fearful, awestruck, and feeling a lack of control with their breath taken away by what they have witnessed. The vocal section goes out on a high-pitched wail of anguish and sorrow, followed by the orchestra playing a descending scale, perhaps representing the fall of the towers. Next, over a low drone comes a searching piano pattern which is overlaid by a single horn playing a theme from the next section, “Prayers.”

Next Week: Memorial, Part 3: Prayers

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