Program Note: Facing the Danger

Facing the Danger [1982]

On 12th June 1982, nearly one million people converged on Central Park in New York City to call for an end to the nuclear arms race and to protest the growing danger to our civilization. In the ensuing months, hundreds of communities throughout the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and other parts of New England, where I had lived for several months, passed ordinances at Town Meetings calling on legislators to ban expenditure on nuclear weapons. As the mid-term Congressional elections in November 1982 drew near, several States placed a referendum alongside the ballot asking the opinions of their citizens on a nuclear ‘freeze’. The more canny politicians, with an eye to the Presidential elections of November 1984, began to talk about the nuclear arms race as ‘the issue of the 80s’, where the will of the people might indeed sway their elected leaders, just as opinion against the Vietnam War had turned the political tide a decade earlier.

It was in this spirit of confident, yet somewhat desperate optimism, that I approached the composition on a new work for the Australian contemporary music group, Flederman. In the ‘Anti-Nuclear’ issue of The Village Voice [New York City, 15th June 1982], I found the springboard for my task in a poem by Barbara Berman, a poet from Washington D.C. In its emphatic insistence and driving rhythms, Barbara’s poem – entitled Say No! – suggested a musical form: a single voice, joined by other voices, relentless and unyielding, growing and crescending to a unison that would be invinceable.

I called my work Facing the Danger and it was written in September 1982, soon after I had arrived in La Jolla, California, to commence postgraduate studies in computer music at the University of California, San Diego. It may be performed by any number of participants with the text read above the delivery of the multi-coloured unison musical line. It was commissioned with financial assistance from the Music Board of the Australia Council and composed especially for a tour of North America by the Australian quartet known as Flederman. These four musicians – Carl Vine [keyboard/voice]. Graeme Leak [percussion], Geoffrey Collins [flute] and Simone de Haan [trombone] – gave the first performance of the piece at a Contemporary Music Festival organised by composer Virko Baley at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas on 18th January 1983.

Copyright Vincent Plush, San Diego, CA . September 1982.

COMPOSER’S NOTE : Where programs are printed to accompany performances of Facing the Danger, I ask that the poem text by printed in full, with due credit to the author, Barbara Berman. Her poem is dedicated to the memory of her grandfather, Edward Isaac Sanders, and is reprinted here with her permission.

“Therefore, choose life.” [Deuteronomy]

We must address the danger now
Because it is acute.
We must face it, address it
Again and again, in loud and rhythmic voices,
In elegant, singing tongues.

We must say no to the danger
That others have brought us
Without thought of us and we must
Say no for these others as well.

We must say no we will not tolerate
This threat of annihilation anymore,
This promise of a black and clouded earth.

We must say no we will not
Live under this threat from which nothing
Will rise, not life as we know it.
All of us will be ashes if all of us

Do not say no to this danger,
No to the men who are responsible
For the danger; Men who refuse
The sanctity of each green thing,
The holiness of rivers.
We must say no to men
Who multiply dangers into a sum
So life-defying in is impossible
To imagine, and yet

We must imagine it.

We must accept the challenge
Of seeing what must never be seen,

We must say no, in loud
And rhythmic voices, we must say no.