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Voices Echo: wind orchestra and symphonic band to perform piece composed by Fresno State professor

By | September 30, 2011 | News (2)

Photo courtesy of Director of Bands, Gary P. Gilroy / The Collegian

On Oct. 4, both the wind orchestra and the symphonic band will have a concert revolving around a specially composed piece commemorating the events of 9/11. Though the 10th anniversary of 9/11 has already passed, the emotion and confusion of that day will surely never be forgotten.

The piece was composed by professor of music theory and composition Dr. Benjamin Boone, who incorporated the thoughts and comments from music students of that tragic day. The wind orchestra will perform this two-part piece called 9/11: Voices Echo, Attack and Aftermath.

Director of bands Gary P. Gilroy said he remembered Emily Willingham, the principle flute for the wind orchestra, speaking quite emotionally of 9/11 as an undergraduate, one of the many echoing voices in this two-piece composition.

“It’s still definitely emotional,” Willingham said. “I was much more emotional back then. I don’t know if it was because I was really young but you know, you just don’t think something like that could happen.”

In early 2000, Boone was hired to teach at Fresno State. The following semester he received a commission from the then-director of bands who wanted him to write a piece for the wind orchestra.

“We knew we wanted something that involved student input,” Boone said. “I wanted them to be part of the compositional process but I didn’t quite know how. Then 9/11 happened very shortly after I got commissioned. So, when I met with the students and asked them what type of piece they would like to write, all of them immediately said I want you to do something having to do with 9/11.”

Boone said he had written about a total of 30 minutes of music before he realized it seemed more like something that would be played in the background for a Disney movie and that it was overly emotional without a real core to it.

“It was really complicated and I put my soul into it,” Boone said. “I really just had to look in the mirror and say, No I’m not going to this. This music is not worth the event of 9/11.’”

He thought it all sounded really good but when he really thought about it he believed it didn’t capture a true expression of 9/11.

“I threw it away, and I literally threw it away because back in that day I was writing a lot more on paper,” Boone said.

Boone began fresh and tried to figure out how to really get in touch with his feelings about that fateful day.

“I started to think about the interviews I did with the students at the very beginning and how they were talking about their confusion and their pain and then I thought to myself well, ‘What did I do on 9/11, how did I process that?’”

Boone said he then completely saturated himself with all the news coverage and horrible images going on and how everything was unfolding.

“I just really couldn’t deal with it anymore,” Boone said. “So I went to my computer and next to my computer is a keyboard and I just banged things out. I thought to myself, ‘Wow, I wonder what that sounds like?’ So I went back and I listened to it and that captured the essence of 9/11 because it sounded horrific.”

Then Boone thought back to the initial meeting where the students talked about what 9/11 meant to them. He got the idea, ‘Why don’t I just interview them?’ he thought.

He put a sign up that said, “During these hours if you have a poem, a song or maybe you just want to talk I’d like to record anything that you have to say or any sound you have to make about 9/11.”

“I was really touched by what the students had to say,” Boone said. “There was a theme that began to emerge with what each of them were saying.”

He believes it provided a window to what 18, 19 and 20-year-olds were going through at that time. Boone took what they said and used them in a musical way and as a musical component and then weaved the other musical material around it to create the final movements, Attack and Aftermath.

A year after the tragedy, 9/11: Voices Echo premiered. Boone had people from all perspectives give their insight. Many said the emotion and the search for meaning really came through.

Boone said after the premier performance, there was silence. No one started to applause, nobody did anything.

“It was probably the greatest feeling I’ve ever had after a piece, that people were still in the piece when it ended,” Boone said. “I hope that students today will come to the concert because it’ll help them understand 9/11 from a different perspective, and they’ll be able to relive 9/11 from the perspective of students at that time.”

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