We Shall Be Turned
We Shall Be Turned, 2006 (12′)
for percussion solo
“Turn us to you, O Lord, and we shall be turned; renew our days as of old.” This, the beautiful, penultimate line of the Lamentations of Jeremiah, refers to the Jewish concept of teshuvah, turning towards God. Teshuvah is a complicated concept; it is the act of atonement and self-renewal, conceived (as with many Jewish customs) as a life’s work, a process rather than a singular action. In writing a piece for my good friend Sam Solomon, I had the opportunity to play on his instruments, and found myself drawn into a processional music that reached something inside me that I had not expressed before in music. We Shall Be Turned does not hide its elements; they are always there, and always turning. Many thanks to Sam for his great efforts on behalf of this work.
Sam Solomon is an old friend and the best percussionist I know. He literally wrote the book on the subject — you can’t say that about too many people. When he commissioned me to write a work back in 2006, I camped out in his percussion setup and immersed myself in the sounds of his instruments. I was looking for a way of taking his particular, specific setup (he commissioned a work for a pre-ordained set of instruments) and turning it into a unified meta-instrument that had a character of its own. I thought about gamelan as a reference: specifically, how each gamelan is its own distinct instrument, comprised of the specific individual instruments that make it up. The result of this effort was We Shall Be Turned. It’s a work that doesn’t really sound like anything else I’ve written, which is always great, and it is so impossibly difficult to play that it’s rarely performed. How difficult is it? You can finally get a sense of this because Sam has made a high-quality video of the piece, which I’ve posted on the piece’s page: http://www.juddgreenstein.com/we-shall-be-turned/ It’s a great performance of a piece written specifically for the person performing it and for the instruments on which it’s being performed. Thanks to Sam for making this available and for continuing to commit so much energy to the work.