To all the victims of blind violence, their friends and their loved ones. And in memory of Mélanie, a young violinist and musicologist with an interest in music therapy, an enthusiastic and passionate individual whose luminous joie de vivre was brought to a brutal end in Brussels on March 22, 2016.
After the attack at the Musée juif de Belgique (Jewish Museum of Belgium) on May 24, 2014, I was profoundly shocked by monstrous increase in barbarity which followed with attacks by Islamic extremists in Paris from January 7-9, 2015 against Charlie Hebdo, the police and the Hyper Casher supermarket, as well as the unspeakable horror of November 13, 2015 — the worst massacre in France since the Second World War.
I was particularly shaken because I was in Paris for an artistic residency during both waves of attacks. Driving home from Paris the night of November 14, I felt the need to respond. I wanted to pay tribute to the hundreds of innocent victims, traumatised witnesses and devastated families. This piece makes use of a wide variety of sounds: field recordings, playing techniques specific to the viola, granulated excerpts of Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater and of the second movement of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony, modular analog synthesis and sounds extracted from radio and television news coverage following the November 13 attacks.
With these latter sources, I chose to focus primarily on what the victims and their loved ones had to say because, while this work may be a cry of revolt, it is most of all a tribute to the victims who were given far too little attention in the media hype following the attacks.
I was particularly moved by the ordeal of the Bataclan victims. While some were able to escape quickly, the majority were trapped for over two hours with the terrorists. In order to survive, they had to find places to hide or play dead under the bodies of the dead and the wounded — all that while seeing or hearing the attackers return multiple times, shooting anyone who showed signs of life. There was a small group that succeeded in hiding in an equipment room with strong men holding the door handle in such a way as to make it seem as though it were locked. On three separate occasions, the terrorists tried to open the door and each time, those hiding thought that their time had come. The structure of this piece is meant to recall those endless hours of waiting when the victims, in a state of shock, vacillated between feelings of relief, hope, fear and resignation in the face of death. The piece ends with accounts of those who lost loved ones.
Although the Paris attacks were the trigger for creating this piece and the audio excerpts all relate to it, I decided not to name the city in my title, in memory of the great number of other cities which have been hit by the same ideological fanaticism and those that have been targeted since, including Brussels. The latter was targeted a second time on March 22, 2016 by three Islamic terrorists who blew themselves up, killing and injuring dozens of victims, one of whom was a friend killed in the subway.
[English translation: Stephanie Moore, i-19]
Requiem for a City was realized in 2015 at the ARTeM (Art, recherche, technologie et musique [Art, Research, Technology, and Music]) studio in Brussels (Belgium) and was not premiered as planned during the Festival Loop in November 2015 on account of it being cancelled by local authorities in the face of terrorist threats. A revised version of the piece premiered on September 29, 2016 at the Musique acousmatique concert of Festival Loop 8 at the Espace Senghor in Brussels. Requiem for a City was composed with support from the Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles (Direction générale de la culture, Service de la musique).