The Song of Job 9:11 – Chapter Ten: HOPE – concert video, Sep 9, 2011
The Song of Job 9:11 – Chapter Ten: HOPE – concert audio, Sep 11, 2011
Above are recordings of the finale of the tenth anniversary concert performances of “The Song of Job 9:11”, which were performed free for audiences throughout New York City in 2011, 10 years after 9/11/2001. “The Song of Job 9:11” grapples with the events and immediate aftermath of 9/11/2001 through the Old Testament story of Job. The whole concert, in video (and separate audio tracks that may have better audio quality on your computer) can be followed on “The Song of Job 9:11” page, added today on this site.
I open this post with the conclusion of the piece, “Hope”, because of its uplifting nature. I understand how daunting and forbidding it is to attend a 60 minute concert about 9/11, and “Chapter Ten: Hope” is the light at the end of the tunnel after the Sturm und Drang of the preceding nine chapters. It is a way to telegraph that the concert is not all darkness. Those who have attended The Song of Job 9:11, whether as a concert or theatrically staged, have always responded very positively to the experience. But getting people to bring themselves to attend the “9/11 oratorio” has been forbidding. I understand. I don’t wish to relive 9/11 either, in musical form or otherwise, and I wrote this piece.
I didn’t want to write the piece at the time either. I was all set to start a musical about, well, a different subject entirely (long since abandoned, but who knows, I may pick it up again) that was going to be my first musical written in America, after twelve years of creating musicals in Germany. I had already done several months of intensive library research on its historical subject. The idea had topped the list of ten musicals I wanted to work on next – a career counselor type had urged me to create that list; the first couple options came easily enough, the next eight were like pulling teeth, somewhere near the bottom of the list were “adapting the Book of Job as an opera” (an idle notion I had back in high school when my English teacher made us read the Book of Job) and, very vaguely, “some rock musical about social unrest” (because of a half dozen angry, anxious, wordless rock melodies in my musical archive that seemed to belong together but languished without a purpose).
And then September 11, 2001 happened.
Ed and I were living in Brooklyn at the time. Some of my memories of that day include Ed calling me when he arrived at his midtown office that morning, telling me one of the Twin Towers had collapsed, then calling back again soon after the second collapse; the long dark cloud passing over Brooklyn from Ground Zero in an otherwise clear blue sky; closing the windows of our apartment to keep out the odor of burnt ash.
Five days later after taking a shower – I remember this very vividly – I was stepping out of the tub and hit quite suddenly with an extremely concrete, complex idea. If there is such a thing as an “epiphany”, a “command from above”, this surely felt like it. I’d only experienced anything like it one time before. This idea was a conceptual triangle, with one point being September 11, the second point being The Book of Job, and the third point being those angry, anxious, purposeless rock melodies. They spoke to each other, they needed to be brought together. It was going to be something between oratorio and music theater. I was going to have to write that piece.
I was dismayed.
I knew this piece would be daunting and difficult and quite possibly controversial and forbidding. Yet I also knew that I had no option. Once this idea, this “triangle”, entered my mind, I knew I must drop everything – like that historical musical I never did pick up again – and work on “9/11 The Book of Job”, as the piece was originally called. I just didn’t have a choice.
I collected and read everything being written in newspapers and magazines. I reread The Book of Job, and transcribed major sections by hand into a notepad. I developed the music, based on those half dozen turbulent melodies and a few others from my archives, plus a dark parody of one classic song about New York, all of which clamored to be included (“Hope” was the last to be added, as an act of mercy).
It was too recent and stunning and overwhelming an event to conjure completely new words and music for the piece. But to find the words within the mass of reportage, eyewitness accounts and op-eds, in an ancient text that spoke eloquently and metaphorically to the tragedy, in musical ideas that already had been unknowingly seeded to respond to cataclysm, that I could do. I could find a way to put the elements within the three points of that triangle together, as found material to be arranged, developed, translated. I could tell myself I was not writing this piece from scratch – that act of creation was too daunting to presume I could do, especially at that time, still in the midst of the tragedy. I told myself I was just putting together a collage from materials which in some form or another already existed, just requiring someone to file and assemble the pieces.
By December, 2001 the piece was essentially written, by January 2002 a complete, clean draft of the score was ready. April 8, 2002, The Song of Job 9:11 was publicly performed for the first time. It has elicited some of the most positive responses as well as the most resistance to anything I have done.
It was and remains one of my proudest achievements.