Everything is Broken, We Sing
Everything is Broken, We Sing (2016)
for cello and piano
By Daniel Harrison
Caitlyn Chenault, cello
Andy villemez, piano
2/7/17 Cohen Family studio Theatre
The title, Everything Is Broken, We Sing can be read in two different ways. It expresses the idea that the world is in turmoil, but we still sing, coming together for shared experiences and expressions despite conflict. Another interpretation of the title is that it is because of trouble that we are brought together—that the turmoil is a catalyst to bring us together.
The composition of this piece occurred during a very difficult summer, not only personally, but for the whole country. Through a tumultuous few months, the most poignant event for me was the mass shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando. I spent much of my childhood and teenage years in Orlando. I remember driving past that nightclub countless times. Many of my close friends have been there.
The form of the piece is built on pulsations. The whole piece is a gradual compression of pulses that are expressed in different ways in the piano and cello. The piano part was inspired in part by a quote from the mother of one of the victims, Christine Leinonen. She said “It takes about five minutes for a church bell to ring 49 times.” I was also struck by the similarities between the ringing of bells and the reverberation of gunshots. From a distance, they share certain sound qualities, but ring out with opposite purposes— one taking away a life, and one remembering it.
In the piano, the sounds of bells are created by playing harmonics on the low strings, through more active harmonic settings, and with hammering repeated notes in the highest register of the instrument. The cello is the reactive member of the duo. It creates the “song” of the piece, sometimes through a harmonically consonant lyrical language, and sometimes through a pained, angular timbres that at times seem to be almost a scream.