Total Inaction
Op. 25 (2020) for chamber ensemble and soprano soloist
(B.Cl., B-flat Tpt., Pf., Elec. Gtr., D.B., Drum Set, Mrb./Vibr.)

Total Inaction is a response to the unending cycle of gun violence and media coverage in the United States of America. It is a multimovement work that seeks to engage and challenge the listener in order to inspire action and emotion regarding the problem of gun violence. The texts used are from Twitter posts, public statements, and the March For Our Lives website, and are authored by gun rights advocates, public officials, national politicians, and gun control advocates.

I. unacceptable is a frustrated introduction to the work as a whole. Each of the other six movements are foreshadowed in this movement, with the scale of each reference ranging from a single motive to an entire section.

II. a national public emergency mimics the sound of alarms and an early warning broadcast system, which fall on deaf ears as the trumpet plays into and echoes around the piano strings. The ending features a gesture repeated 17 times, then 2 more times after a pause. This correlates to the 17 victims of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting, plus the two students who committed suicide within the following year. 

III. Thoughts and Prayers. draws on the common phrase used to express sympathy to victims and survivors of school and mass shootings. 

IV. we will NOT stop is a fast-paced, aggressive movement that utilizes the same isorhythmic structure from the first movement of Messiaen’s Quatour pour la fin du temps. Messiaen’s isorhythm represents an unfolding of eternity in the afterlife, and in this piece, it represents a seemingly unending eternity of gun violence. 

V. deserve depicts a transformation of a melancholy and despondent question about the utter morbidity and senselessness of gun violence into a rallying cry for burning passion and real, meaningful action to curb the national epidemic.

VI. take [them] pits the two sides of the debate against each other. A prominent national figure (represented by the soprano soloist) advocates for extreme gun control and is met with an aggressive, infuriated outcry from gun rights activists (represented by the ensemble). The debate escalates into an electric guitar solo that continues to hammer home the same talking points from both sides (represented by the highly repetitive riff) before dissolving into a confused, heated mess.

VII. believe. reflects on the piece as a whole. The message is hopeful, yet extremely somber, as if weighed down by the continued and needless loss of life throughout our country. The final moments recall a few of the more unsettling motives from earlier in the piece, and fades out in the same manner that the entire piece began, implying that the cycle of gun violence still continues on.

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