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Prayer for Burma (score)

By Stuart Brown

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Flute, Oboe, Violin, Viola, Cello, Double Bass, Timpani, Alto flute in Gtamtamglockenspielvibraphonemarimba (5-octave)harp - Advanced Intermediate
Composed by Stuart Brown. Movies/TV, World, 21st Century. Score. 75 pages. Published by SB VisionMusic (S0.14154).

Item Number: S0.14154

Prayer for Burma is an orchestral work of just over thirteen minutes’ duration, which I composed in October 2010 in response to a request from a supporter of Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW). The aim was to provide an atmospheric musical vehicle for drawing people’s attention to the human rights abuses that are being perpetrated in Burma, with particular reference to the Karen people, and to motivate people to support them. As for me personally, I have for many years held great admiration for Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the sacrifices that she has made in her fight for democracy in Burma, so I dedicated the work in part to her also. In parallel with composing the music, I read Benedict Rogers’ book A Land without Evil: Stopping the Genocide of Burma’s Karen People (Monarch, 2004). I had already mapped out the themes of the music before starting to read and so it cannot be said that the music is based on the book – it isn’t. However I did find that the emotions that I felt as I read the book were virtually identical to those that I was expressing in the music. If nothing else, this gives me confidence that the music will serve its purpose. The music does not set out to mimic south-east Asian music. Some of its tone colours are loosely associated with the region, but these are used predominantly in a western European setting. My aim was to paint an impressionistic sound picture rather than to create a kind of musical photograph. The result makes for easy, if not particularly comfortable, listening. The music consists of a single continuous movement, which contains five distinct sound pictures.Oppression. How must it feel to live in the knowledge that the army might turn up at any time and kill you and those you love; to know that you might be killed for a reason or for no reason at all; to know that you have absolutely no control over whether you live or die and that nothing you can do is going to make you any more secure? The music is threatening, unsettling and sounds like a suppressed scream of agony.Fear and Tranquillity. How do you live with ever-present fear and yet somehow manage to get on with your life and make life happy for those you love? The music is calm and beautiful, yet in a profoundly unsettling way.Genocide. As seen through the eyes of those who have lost loved ones, who mourn and who are nevertheless able to forgive and pray for those who perpetrate such evil. The music is a classically beautiful lament in A-flat major, set against an unsettling dorian mode note sequence in the cellos and double basses, in B-flat.Prayer and Light. What could Burma be like if the world’s Christian community were to pray earnestly that God would break the hearts of the oppressors and cause them to turn to Christ? In a complete contrast to the preceding three sound pictures, Prayer and Light uses the same musical elements and transforms them into a chaotic and festive tapestry of sound, representing the changed heart of a nation whose people are set free.Dedication. The main theme of Fear and Tranquillity emerges from Prayer and Light, but the music is now a semitone higher; and the elements that previously lent an air of menace to the music now provide a sense of stability and rest. The music sounds as if it is heading for closure – but the final chord in the strings underpins a dominant seventh note played by the oboe, giving the distinct feeling that something more is needed ….

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