Detroit Symphony Orchestra: June 7, 2019

In conversation with conductor/composer Yaniv Segal before the Detroit Symphony Orchestra‘s premiere of Juliet Palmer’s work “Oil & Water“.

Transcript (excerpt):

…Here I am in Toronto and I thought …what’s connecting me to Detroit? And the obvious thing is the Great Lakes and so I thought I’m just gonna go with obvious. I’m gonna go with water. At that time I’d also become aware of this very inspiring Ojibway elder who has since passed away called Josephine Mandamin who walked around every single Great Lake as an act of Prayer, honoring water as a sacred life force. I found that tremendously inspiring. I thought, what is our journey in North America with water? So my piece is a snapshot of moments of communities gathering together to raise their voices to protect water. That spans from the Pacific Ocean, where you have protesters against oil pipelines that threaten orca habitat in Vancouver, to communities at Standing Rock, again protesting pipelines that threaten Sacred Lands and watersheds, and then here in Detroit we hear voices from the protests against the water shutoffs.
And as a counterbalance to that (you won’t hear the original audio samples), but I’ve also been inspired by the sounds of, it sounds a bit mechanical, but and it is the Toronto’s high level pumping station. Because that’s the kind of infrastructure that actually brings us the water that sustains life. So that’s a really fascinating sound to me. As is the sound of a wetland and the frogs. That’s the last section of the piece – it’s a very quiet meditative section. You’re just listening to frogs, birds, airplanes that fly by. And in this place where water goes to recover and to heal itself from all the mess that it’s been subjected to up to that point.
Do you mind if we listen to one of these? Let’s see Steve, can we have that? Let’s do the third one because that’s actually relevant to, very relevant to, Detroit, I think…So I’m hearing them say “stop the water shut off “and “water is a human right” and how does that turn into music?
Yes, so you can already hear that it’s like a choir, you know. A group of protesters when they’re chanting together they are a choir, they’re a spoken word choir. And so you can hear the rhythm of the words and you hear that rhythm in the music: Dada Dada Dada da Dada Dada Dada. That translates into this brass section motif that goes through a certain portion of the piece and similarly with other recordings from Standing Rock and from the Kinder Morgan protest …
…I was really honored that last night in the audience were three of the women from We the People of Detroit including Monica Lewis Patrick who gave permission to use this recording from Detroit. And she said, oh you know we could have been in the audience actually protesting. I was like, yes! That would be really cool, but that’s the next version — we’ll have pop-up choruses!