|The world is full of suffering, it is also full of overcoming it.
– Helen Keller
The Liberty Bell: cracked, broken, vulnerable, imperfect. It is no mistake that she is an enduring symbol of freedom, for the condition of the bell is not far from the current state of liberty and justice in this mysterious existence we call “the world.” The bell gives those who encounter her an invitation to reflect on the sting, wound, and struggle wrapped up in the expedition to seek deliverance.
And though I am writing this post on USA’s Memorial Day, I am not solely referring to the sacrifices made by military men and women in various wars and conflicts around the world. I am summoning the reality of the oppressed, downtrodden, and disenfranchised; the men, women, and children who have suffered, and continue to suffer under iron fists, in conditions of poverty, in places of total despair.
What is freedom if freedom has no cause? Freedom from what? Freedom for what? Humanity can only understand the nature of freedom when posed with its absence, either partially or completely. And so, on this Memorial Day, it is appropriate to remember those who have lost their dignity, those who cannot feed their children, those who find peace in death rather than in life.
Four years ago, I wrote a piece scored for mixed choir and string orchestra, called “Liberty.” In it, I attempt to communicate these elements of freedom in a slow, sorrowful, and plaintive lament. Please listen to the piece in its entirety below:
San Francisco Conservatory of Music New Music Ensemble
Nicole Paiement, conductor