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An Ally, An Adversary: Lamentationes Jeremiæ Prophetæ | Steven Sérpa

An Ally, An Adversary:
Lamentationes Jeremiæ Prophetæ

for solo double bass (or cello) (2014)



Duration: 6 min.

Verdant Vibes Spring Festival, May 22th, 2016
Aurora, Providence, RI
Jacob Richman, double bass

Program Note:
The title of An Ally, An Adversary: Lamentationes Jeremiæ Prophetæ came about from a series of events in my life in December of 2013. The most impactful event was a disagreement with my mother over gay marriage, during which she told me that she has tolerated my “lifestyle choice” but would never accept me as a gay man. After this, my mother cut me out of her life, ending contact through the holiday season and beyond. The rallying of friends and community around me during that hard time was overwhelming, and I was grateful for all those who showed me love and support (and still am grateful for the continued love and support). All of this happened in my personal life just as these issues were, and still are, being fought on the world stage. All across the United States there are small victories for gay civil rights but ever more and more ways to deny gay men and women their basic rights. In places like Russia and Uganda, the situation of government endorsed violence against gay people is dire. When Evan Runyon commissioned me for a work for solo double bass, the words “Ally” and “Adversary” had been continually echoing in my mind, and these opposing concepts became the basis of the work. It is amazing to have allies in the fight for basic human rights, but it is sad that allies are even necessary.

The sacred subtitle is a reference to my favorite Thomas Tallis work, his Lamentations of Jeremiah, a piece I was studying, rehearsing and performed during the time I wrote this work. The idea of Jerusalem surrounded by enemies and in need of a savior, the prophet himself beset by enemies, the lamenting of this man and of the city as a whole, this all resonated with my own thoughts at the time. Small bits of Tallis came out during the writing, particularly the extensive modality of the work and the very English-Renaissance use of cross relations. I end the work with a slow coda in which the melody I had used in fragments is presented whole.

Given time, I hope our society can grow past divisive political and hate-filled religious jargon and uphold the rights of all men and women, gay or straight, black or white, native or immigrant, or whatever the hot-button issue of the day happens to be. Someday the words “Ally” and “Adversary” might be concepts learned of during history class.


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Lamentationes Jeremiæ Prophetæ”

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