Anita Brown

 
 

Music

The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra
2013-04-24
Anita Brown, Composer

Story

"Disarming The Tempest" is a symphonic poem illuminating the plight of returning combat veterans suffering with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). It is constructed in AB form; that is to say, its two segments are noticeably contrasting from each other.

The first part (A section) uses four short, spoken phrases derived from civilian conversation-starters, but which unfortunately often induce a tempest within, rather than put the infantryman at ease.  These phrases were used to create four short melodic motifs by assigning pitches (notes) to the contour of the spoken phrases.  They were employed both as speech and melody.  The four phrases are:

  • So good to see you!
  • We're SO glad you made it home a live!
  • (The veteran's response) Thank you.  Thank you very much.
  • Did you KILL anyone?

The phrases are spoken by some players.  Some choices were guided by this quote from a United States Marine:

"Explosions leave a sense of disillusion for that split second.  The world stops.  Then hell kisses you in the mouth again."   

--Brandon Weatherford, 3rd Battalion/5th Marines, United States Marine Corps

The second segment of the piece is in stark contrast, offering the peace I wish for these brave warriors.

The two excerpts in this audio file represent one excerpt per segment:

1.  Beginning in the middle of the A Section during its development, you will hear some of the spoken phrases and melodies that follow the rhythmic contour of those phrases.  The segment depicts a combat memory.  An altered marching cadence is still being used as a "boots on the ground" motif.  Considering there is likely no marching in formation during a fire fight, the rhythmic motif represents the strategic and stealth-like movement of infantrymen.  Brass interjections are reminiscent of the strength and valor these men represent in this endeavor.

2.  KEEP LISTENING!  Seven seconds of silence separates the exceprts...  The B Section begins with a new and contrasting solo melody in the strings.  It grows and is supported along the way by woodwinds and brass, reaching an apex that was composed through tears and without inner dialogue, all the while bearing in mind the very private, personal, internal conflict that many of our warriors live with.  I chose strings to carry the bulk of this segment in part because I had never had the opportunity to write for strings, but mostly because when I posed the question on facebook, "Brass or Strings?," Brandon Weatherford said, "Strings."

 

My deepest thanks to Sgt. Weatherford for answering some difficult and some stupid "civilian" questions, for providing me with the profound quote cited above which guided so many choices, and for ordering me back to the piano on more than one occasion.

 

TESTIMONIALS

“I just had to come and say thank you for writing this.  My husband is a Viet Nam Vet and everything in your piece is exactly what he deals with every day.  We were all sitting back there crying the whole time.”  

 --Anonymous Concert-Goer, Kleinhans Concert Hall, April 24, 2013

 

“[Anita] handled a challenging subject in an artistic framework with grace and dignity [and] balanced the inherent tension of the music with a very human lyricism. It is a substantial technical and musical statement, yet approachable by any listener…”

 -- Bret Zvacek, Professor of Music, The Crane School of Music, SUNY Potsdam

 

“The piece is well-balanced and has emotional depth…very effective.  Beautiful writing! Your work was especially moving.”

 --Nicole Mitchell, Assistant Professor of Music, University of California Irvine

 

“Disarming the Tempest is more than beautiful, more than emotional, more than simply touching the human spirit [and] helping the listener to imagine the sounds and feelings [of] combat; to hear artillery, see & feel death.  Anita’s compassion, imagination, creativity, the essence of her ‘purpose in life,’ seems to me to be the greatest gift ever. ‘BRAVO, ANITA!!’

 --Jami Dauber, NYC Freelance Trumpet Artist, Manager DIVA Jazz Orchestra

 

“[Anita has] created a beautiful thing!  The calm after the storm…Beautifully orchestrated.  [Her] harmonic construction in ten minutes of music is really great [and] gives a logical cadence.”

 --Alan Broadbent, Grammy Nominated Jazz Composer/Arranger

 

“Wow!  Brilliant!!  Disarming The Tempest induces apocalyptic mayhem, transporting the listener into battle with images of explosions, gunfire, blurred vision, smoke, ruins and death.  A reflective transformation conjures beauty, nature, solace…distant gunfire… ‘Is it over? Am I going home? To my family? My life?’  Anita Brown never ceases to amaze me.”

 --Lee Finkelstein, Drummer, The Original Blues Brothers

 

“Beautiful opening”

“This piece is original and can be very powerful because of the subject matter.”

“Works well with film?”

“Very creative and effective.”

“Effective piece!”

 --Members of The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra                       

Lyrics

"LYRICS"

(If you can call it that...)

 

Spoken phrases strategically written into players' parts:

  • So good to see you!
  • We're SO glad you made it home a live!
  • (The veteran's response) Thank you.  Thank you very much.
  • Did you kill anyone?