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Fugue: "Wear Pearls and Smile" (A Pairing with Beethoven's Symphony #2) - Timpani

By Benjamin Harry Sajo

Detailed Description

Timpani - Advanced - Digital Download
Composed by Benjamin Harry Sajo. 21st Century, Contemporary Classical, Impressionistic, Post-Romantic, Post-Modern. Individual Part. 3 pages. Published by Benjamin Sajo (S0.880853).

Item Number: S0.880853

Fugue: “Wear Pearls and Smile” is, on the outset, a fast, rambunctious adventure for many voices playing at the same time. It was conceived as a pairing for the equally vivacious second symphony of Ludwig van Beethoven–his 250th birthday is this year–but can stand on its own as one of my hardest, most challenging works to cook up.

This piece is dedicated to those forced to appear positive when internally they’re falling apart. The title is inspired by a quote that’s been with me for a while, “Why is it that men can be bastards and women must wear pearls and smile?” by Lynn Hecht Schafren, the celebrated American jurist famous for campaigning for gender equity in courts. I’m taking the quote out of its initial context, but the power of that quote, for me, exemplifies how hard it is to maintain a sense of emotional decorum and dignity when you’re authentically a hot mess. And what’s more of a musical hot mess than a fugue?

There are two realities to this piece. I’ll quote Dmitri Shostakovich, from his autobiography: “The rejoicing is forced, created under threat, […] It’s as if someone were beating you with a stick and saying, ‘Your business is rejoicing, your business is rejoicing,’ and you rise, shaky, and go marching off, muttering ‘Our business is rejoicing, our business is rejoicing.’" On the one hand, it is insincere happiness, cloying perhaps. But the other truth, I’ll quote Oscar Hammerstein II, from The King and I: “While shivering in my shoes / I strike a careless pose / And whistle a happy tune / And no one ever knows, / I'm afraid.” I forced myself, against all impulses of my current being, to forge happiness. This piece, with its origin being a mental puzzle (fugues are puzzles), it became a construct where I could lift myself up and regain a sense of purpose. Therefore, it is invented–out of a literal need to survive–pure, genuine happiness.

Future Performances: If you are interested in performing this work, please e-mail me.


Benjamin Sajo (b. 1988) is a Canadian composer of contemporary classical music, as well as an educator. Since developing a fiercely independent creative voice upon the completion of his studies at Western (2010) and McGill Universities (2013), he continues to find inspiration from the intersection of mythology, art, and nature upon the contemporary human experience. In 2019, he released his premiere album of original music, The Great War Sextet: Canadian War Poetry with Trombone & Strings , with support from the Ontario Arts Council. He is a member of SOCAN and the League of Canadian Composers.

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