For Amplified ‘Ukulele (2018), approximately 5’30”

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About the Music

On August 11th and 12th, 2017, white nationalist and white supremacist activists attended a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Evoking the K.K.K. and Hitler Youth, they carried torches and shouted slgoans such as, “White lives matter!”; “Blood and soil!”; and “Jews will not replace us!” Black Lives Matter and anti-fascist activists as well as clergy members gathered to protest the rally, and violence erupted. A white nationalist named James Alex Fields Jr. plowed his car into a crowd of pedestrians, killing counter-protester Heather Heyer and injuring 19 others. A police helicopter monitoring the activity also crashed, killing two state troopers, Lt. H. Jay Cullen and Berke M.M. Bates.

Reacting to the violence and racism, activists around the country mobilized on August 13th to protest Charlottesville. In Denver, I joined a large gathering at the Martin Luther King Jr. statue at City Park and marched down Colfax Avenue to the state capitol. Along the way, I recorded the crowd shouting slogans such as, “No Trump! No K.K.K.! No fascist U.S.A.!” and “White silence is violence!” Although President Trump had not actively helped organize the Charlottesville rally, his well-documented white nationalism contributed to an atmosphere that emboldened the racists. As the violence unfolded on August 12th, Trump blamed both sides, at first refusing to condemn the white nationalists and later that week calling them “very fine people.”

As I began to write No Fascist U.S.A. for amplified ‘ukulele, I remembered the slogans from the Charlottesville protest and transcribed their rhythms. I alternated those rhythms, variations on them, and other developmental episodes with presentations of the famous civil rights song “We Shall Overcome.” I wanted to evoke some of the energy of the counter-protests and to take the listener on a musical journey through the times we are living in, filled with uncertainty, polemics, and violence.