Last Breaths

Baritone solo
Bass clarinet
Trumpet in C
Written between December, 2014 and February, 2015, in Lorton, Virginia and Murphysboro, Illinois.
Commissioned by Andrew Kozar and Loadbang.
Duration: approx. 12 minutes.
 Premiered By Loadbang at the DiMenna Center for Classical Music, New York
 in the spring of 2015.
In December, 2014, a grand jury in New York declared police officer Daniel Pantaleo
not liable in the choking death of Eric Garner, a street vendor of “loosey” cigarettes
who posed no violent threat to officer Pantaleo or those around him and was killed
in a display of police arrogance and brutality that is sadly all too common (especially
against African Americans) in the United States of America in the 21st century. A
month before, the town of Ferguson, Missouri, a subdivision of St. Louis, a city
close to my heart, exploded in sometimes violent demonstrations when another
grand jury acquitted police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael
Brown, who was unarmed. The Ferguson riots were not only an explosion of rage
from an increasingly marginalized community, but also proved a demonstration of
the increased militarization of police forces in the United States.
I do not tend to write a lot of specifically political pieces, but the events above are
merely a drop in an increasingly bloody bucket, and angered a lot of people,
including myself. In Last Breaths, I join my voice in the outcry against these growing
injustices. The piece began as a much more straightforward set of songs for
Loadbang, with whom I’d been trying to find a collaborative project for
some time, but by December, 2014, after the Ferguson riots and the Eric Garner
decision, I needed to join my voice to the growing outcry, however humbly. in 2016,
my friend and Great Noise Ensemble colleague, David Vickerman, asked me to
prepare a large ensemble version of it for a his On Justice and Peace project. This
piece is the result.
Last Breaths sets the last words of six young men killed by police in the last ten
years. I hope it honors their memories in some small way, and it is to those
memories, along with countless others’, that this work is dedicated.