Today and Everyday, 2004 (7′), for orchestra
When I received a commission from the New York Youth Symphony to write a work as part of their First Music commissioning program, I was excited for a number of reasons. The orchestra had a reputation for being terrific and enthusiastic, as did the conductor, Paul Haas. More than anything, though, I was excited to write a work that would be a personal statement about my return to New York, emphasized by the work’s being premiered in Carnegie Hall, the center of the city’s classical music life.
The last time I lived in New York, I was just out of college, living for a while at home. It was a difficult time for a number of reasons, the most immediate of which was the attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. While I have many memories from that period — including that of standing in Washington Square Park, watching the towers fall — my mind always comes back to the days immediately following the attacks, when it genuinely felt like a spirit of community and shared hope could prevail over the forces of vengeance and politics and greed that we knew, on some level, were threatening to take over. The years since then have only heightened the poignancy of those days, given that our fears were better placed than we could have imagined. It’s a feeling that I often come back to in my mind, both to wonder whether it was possible to have maintained that spirit any longer, and as a source of hope in times when it can be hard to find.
In high school, I used to ride the 4/5/6 subway line to and from school every day. At the Union Square station, one stop from my house, I’d often transfer from the express to the local; on the local side, moving platforms bridged the gap between the main platform and the train. A public service announcement ran on loop, cautioning passengers about the dangerous moving platforms, providing other advice, and ending with the memorable line, “thank you for riding with the New York City Transit Authority, today and everyday.” To this day, nothing represents the City to me like the subway, with its perpetual mixed bag of people, moving in all possible directions for all possible reasons. More often than anywhere else in the City, I wind up having random interactions with people on the train; people ask directions, we exchange looks as something strange happens, a child facilitates communication (because she doesn’t yet know that you’re not “supposed” to talk to anyone else). I’m constantly reminded on the subway, as bleak as it often can seem, that as long as people are forced to live together and interact with one another, there’s still hope that we’ll find our way back to that better way of coexisting. All that any of us can do is keep struggling for what’s right and what’s good. New Yorkers know that as well as anyone, and that’s what we’re going to do, today and everyday.
Today and Everyday is dedicated to Aaron Jay Kernis, who was a great help in working on this piece, and to the City of New York.