Hi Bus Driver Visitors:
One of many emotions that has come up for me post 9/11 is an intense form of feminist rage, something I feel quite uncomfortable about, if I can be honest, having always thought myself quite beyond all that. But when I got thisÂ Bang on a Can commission, the first thing I thought of was this poem by the Bangladeshi troublemakerÂ Taslima Nasrin. (She had a fatwa issued against her in the mid-90’s and seems to have pretty much disappeared from public life.) Originally I was going to set it in the piece, but I decided not to. Here’s how it goes:
You’re a girl
and you’d better not forget
that when you step over the threshold of your house
men will look askance at you.
When you keep on walking down the lane
men will follow you and whistle.
When you cross the lane and step onto the main road
men will revile you and call you a loose woman.
If you’ve got no character
you’ll turn back,
and if not
you’ll keep on going,
as you’re going now.
The harmonic language is mostly built of diminished seventh chords, in reference to that cool climax in the first movement ofÂ Mahler’sÂ Second, which I was listening to because I’d been hanging out withÂ Berio’sÂ SinfoniaÂ because of the “keep going” connection between the Beckett/Berio and the Nasrin text.
The pre-recorded material is constructed solely from samples of theÂ pipa, a Chinese instrument that is conventionally played by cultivated young ladies performing elevated music for the delectation of the upper classes.
The title of the piece comes from something I read yesterday in a profile of the American troublemaker Al Sharpton in this week’s (2/18-25/02)Â New Yorker:
“The bus driver didn’t change his mind, Rosa Parks changed hers.”
The piece is dedicated to the memory of Samia al-Rumn.
As part of your process in learning the piece, I urge you to listen to my sketch of the piece, where I sing the Nasrin text that later became the clarinet part. It will tell you many things that can’t be embedded in the score.
In order to play the piece, please order a copy of the backing track by following the paypal link, and thank you for your interest inÂ the bus driver didn’t change his mind.