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Bending the Arc (2011)
Instrumentation: solo tenor saxophone
Commission: Noah Getz
Premiere: Noah Getz, Evolution Contemporary Music Series, Baltimore, MD
Bending the Arc, 9.20.2011, Noah Getz, Evolution Contemporary Music Series, Baltimore, MD.
Video by Andrew Shenker.
In his 1853 book, Of Justice and the Conscience, Theodore Parker wrote: “I do not pretend to understand the moral universe; the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways; I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; I can divine it by conscience. And from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice.”
Martin Luther King, Jr. would later paraphrase Parker’s words: "the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice." And forty years to the day after Dr. King's assassination, then-Senator Barack Obama added his own caveat: "it bends towards justice, but here is the thing: it does not bend on its own. It bends because each of us in our own ways put our hand on that arc and we bend it."
Bending the Arc celebrates an ongoing movement of individual and collective civil rights activism, and the rich rhetorical and musical traditions associated with it. The work was written for Noah Getz, to mark the dedication of the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial in Washington, DC in August 2011.