Rustin Songs (text: Bayard Rustin) for TTBB low voice choir, piano, and percussion; 6' (2019) commissioned by Perfect Harmony Men's Chorus
1. Indifference 2. Inner Security
composer's note: Bayard Rustin is a true hero in American history, and yet so few people know his name. I know I didn't until a few years ago, and that's a terrible shame. If you don't know about Rustin and his legacy, go read his fascinating wikipedia page. I'll wait here.
When Perfect Harmony Men's Chorus asked me to write some choral music using the words of Bayard Rustin, I was very excited to take on this challenge. Rustin is a hero in the African-American Civil Rights movement, a hero in the LGBTQ+ liberation movement, and honestly a hero for just living his truth so boldly in the face of so many to whom he represented "the undesirable" so strongly. One thing that particularly struck me about Rustin's writing was how much his ideas were a precursor to Kimberlé Crenshaw's concept of Intersectionality that's at the center of so many discussions today. And so I chose these quotes because of how strongly they relate to such concepts in 21st century discourse: "Indifference" is about the intersectional nature of minorities' rights, while "Inner Security" speaks to something like Audre Lorde's "self care" concepts. That Rustin spoke of such things more than 50 years ago is powerful & astonishing.
My settings of these words (which Rustin spoke off the cuff in an interview setting) dramaticize those quotes to bring them to vivid musical life, while also keeping intelligibility and direct communication at the forefront.