Last week I composed a piece of music for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day. It’s a piece for solo guitar partitioned into sections over which are to be played portions of a recording of MLK reading his “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” one of his most important writings defending his non-violent activism for racial justice, with particularly pointed passages lamenting the lukewarmth of white moderates who agreed academically with Dr. King, but were not willing to materially support the cause. This message resonates with me now in the face of many (historically, myself included) who believe in a more sterile version of Dr. King and his message that effectively closes the racial justice discourse as a finished case.
I found myself thinking a lot about this text last week, particularly in the context of the recent election and inauguration here in the United States, and the many people who are afraid for their lives or livelihood under Donald Trump’s leadership going forward. I felt that a music-video artwork was the most authentic way I had to engage with its ideas as they struck me.
Here’s the recording of my performance on Soundcloud.
And here’s the music video I made of the performance for my YouTube channel.
The music takes many cues from the style of Steve Reich’s and Leo Brouwer’s minimalist works, just to be honest about my influences.
Click here if you play guitar and would like the sheet music.