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After Tragedy

Letters received, including a comment from the Editor. We think it important to keep open the communications channels at this sad time, so if you would like your comments published on this page, please complete our contact form. We'll attempt to keep this page updated over the next few days.

From: Richard Castelli, Sarah Ford, Florence Berthaud
Date: 12 September 2001

Dear friends and colleagues,

Due to the tragic events in New York yesterday, the Prime Minister of Quebec, Bernard Landry, has announced his decision to postpone Quebec-New York 2001.

Therefore, the scheduled performances of Robert Lepage's Zulu Time from 21st September to 9th October are now cancelled.

We will of course keep you informed of future tour dates of this show.

Thank you for your understanding.

From: Robert Steadman
Date: 13 September 2001

I am so relieved that Nick Kenyon has announced a change to the traditional format of the Last Night of the Proms in the wake of the atrocities perpetrated in the USA earlier this week. It would be unforgivable, and wholly inappropriate, for such a jingoistic and imperialistic event to continue unaltered in the wake of such events.

Many people find the Last Night of the Proms an overblown and offensive evening of, for want of a better word, 'entertainment' in the modern world, and, as a professional musician, whilst I accept there is a place for tradition, I find this celebration of an oppressive empire wholly at odds with the modern world.

I believe the Last Night of the Proms is an unfortunate anachronism that hails back to a time that has long past. I hope this change will be permanent and we might be able to establish new traditions suitable for the 21st century. Surely the Last Night should celebrate peace, freedom and a world of partnerships?

From: Basil Ramsey, Editor

How strange that the American tragedy has coincided with a letter from a reader sharply critical of the 'Last Night of the Proms', and of the jingoistic nature of this outdated annual event, especially so soon after a world catastrophe -- and it is no use any reader coyly pointing out that the disaster happened in New York. The world gets smaller by the day.

We know the BBC has dealt with the dilemma of the 'Last Night'. But on matters linking music and real life tragedy there has always been a force within music capable of releasing a dramatic tension commensurate with experience of the event itself. With instant communication tragedy comes to our notice with more persistence than anything else. But -- thank goodness -- on the scale of the American loss of life, it is not common.

One feels that sooner or later some artistic venture will attempt to encapsulate the awful circumstances and outcome of this happening in words and music that themselves justify the means. Human tragedy has always been a dramatic challenge, and in itself can draw a powerful response from those whose artistic instincts are capable and visionary.

The emotional link between music and tragedy has created countless examples of the depth and power that can transcend the savagery of blind force, even when initiated by Man. Perhaps this will remind us all of the duty we owe to each other of respect, comradeship and assistance when in need. We have the same physical attributes, but mental capacity demonstrating a readiness to help and care to an extreme is not yet universal amongst us.

Copyright © 14 September 2001 Basil Ramsey, Eastwood, Essex, UK


From: Gordon Rumson
Date: 14 September 2001


In sadness I provide the following link:

This brief composition is motivated by the horrendous events. The text at the link will explain more...

From: Nigel Edmund-Jones
Date: 14 September 2001

How exquisite the Service of Remembrance at St Paul's Cathedral was. Poignant music, beautifully performed by a supremely professional choir in a building that always enhances the gravitas of such occasions. What a fitting tribute in such sad times. Music, as always, conveys emotions in its own unique way...

From: Donald Clarke
Date: 14 September 2001

I was born and raised in Wisconsin, lived in Britain for 25 years, now live in Austin Texas. The BBC may wish to alter the usual format of the Last Night of the Proms in the light of this week's events, but they would be fools to change it permanently because some people think it is 'jingoistic'. It always brought a lump to my throat and I always wished we smart-ass Americans were capable of showing such innocent unforced old-fashioned affection for our country.

From: J Pierce
Date: 14 September 2001

May we all rise like the phoenix from the ruins with a melodious God Bless America.

From: David Stybr
Date: 14 September 2001

Thank you for this forum. This is definitely a situation in which music can express what is beyond mere words.

In Memoriam: to the thousands lost

Note from the Composer:

Completed in August 2001 (shortly after my Brass Quintet in C Minor), my Cortège in A Minor for Brass Quintet has no specific program. It symbolizes only a general triumph of good against adversity, and the spirit of the mythical Phoenix, which rises from the ashes in renewal. Moved by the vigils after the World Trade Center tragedy in September, I wished to create a small work of music In Memoriam to the thousands lost, and realized that I had already done so. May their brethren rise from the ashes, in continued renewal and strength.

David Stybr, Chicago, Illinois, USA

David Stybr: Cortège in A Minor for Brass Quintet (6:00)


From: Adrian Williams
Date: 15 September 2001

I'm sorry to choose this moment to argue, but I object to one of the letters from your readers. I think it's unfortunate that Richard Steadman chooses to use the current disaster in the USA to knock the usual Proms last-night format. After all, Americans are finding a little bit of 'jingoism' and, dare I say so, 'imperialism' quite useful right now. I don't blame them, frankly. And neither do I blame those who go and queue for a week and sing 'Land of hope and glory' with all their lungs. There's precious little other opportunity to do so these days. Lots of great things are anachronisms in this world, and whilst I agree with the change in Proms programming in view of the situation this year, there's no need to end such traditions just for the sake of it. There are many opportunities to celebrate internationalism and peace between nations these days; we have European integration shoved down our throats by desperate politicians all the time. Mr Steadman should get off his bolshy old high horse and let the people sing and wave flags for a few more years yet.

From: Keith Bramich
Date: 16 September 2001

Gordon Rumson states on his page that he (quite understandably) doesn't feel like singing at the moment. Me neither, although two nights ago, I felt like screaming:

New York Threnody (3'02")
Standard MIDI or MP3 (3Mb download)

A strange few days, these -- for everyone, I think ... The next morning I woke early, with a dry throat, and experienced the most beautiful dawn.

Dawn in West London, 15 September 2001. Copyright (c) Keith Bramich

I wonder if we'll all still be here this time next week, next month, next year? I feel a great sadness, and not much optimism at the moment ...

From: Tamim Ansary
Date: 16 September 2001

Yesterday I heard a lot of talk about 'bombing Afghanistan back to the Stone Age'. Ronn Owens, on KGO Talk Radio allowed that this would mean killing innocent people, people who had nothing to do with this
atrocity, but 'we're at war, we have to accept collateral damage', and he asked, "What else can we do? What is your suggestion?" Minutes later I heard a TV pundit discussing whether we 'have the belly to do what
must be done'.

And I thought about these issues especially hard because I am from Afghanistan, and even though I've lived here for 35 years I've never lost track of what's been going on over there. So I want to share a few
thoughts with anyone who will listen.

I speak as one who hates the Taliban and Osama Bin Laden. There is no doubt in my mind that these people were responsible for the atrocity in New York. I fervently wish to see those monsters punished.

But the Taliban and Bin Laden are not Afghanistan. They're not even the government of Afghanistan. The Taliban are a cult of ignorant psychotics who captured Afghanistan in 1997 and have been holding the country in bondage ever since. Bin Laden is a political criminal with a master plan. When you think Taliban, think Nazis. When you think Bin Laden, think Hitler. And when you think 'the people of Afghanistan' think
"the Jews in the concentration camps." It's not only that the Afghan people had nothing to do with this atrocity. They were the first victims of the perpetrators. They would love for someone to eliminate the Taliban and clear out the rats nest of international thugs holed up in their country. I guarantee it.

Some say, if that's the case, why don't the Afghans rise up and overthrow the Taliban themselves? The answer is, they're starved, exhausted, damaged, and incapacitated. A few years ago, the United Nations estimated that there are 500,000 disabled orphans in
Afghanistan--a country with no economy, no food. Millions of Afghans are widows of the approximately two million men killed during the war with the Soviets. And the Taliban has been executing these women for being
women and have buried some of their opponents alive in mass graves. The soil of Afghanistan is littered with land mines and almost all the farms have been destroyed. The Afghan people have tried to overthrow the Taliban. They haven't been able to.

We come now to the question of bombing Afghanistan back to the Stone Age. Trouble with that scheme is, it's already been done. The Soviets took care of it. Make the Afghans suffer? They're already suffering. Level their houses? Done. Turn their schools into piles of rubble? Done.

Eradicate their hospitals? Done. Destroy their infrastructure? There is no infrastructure. Cut them off from medicine and health care? Too late. Someone already did all that.

New bombs would only land in the rubble of earlier bombs. Would they at least get the Taliban? Not likely. In today's Afghanistan, only the Taliban eat, only they have the means to move around. They'd slip away and hide. (They have already, I hear.) Maybe the bombs would get some of those disabled orphans, they don't move too fast, they don't even have wheelchairs. But flying over Kabul and dropping bombs wouldn't really be
a strike against the criminals who did this horrific thing. Actually it would be making common cause with the Taliban -- by raping once again the people they've been raping all this time.

So what else can be done, then? Let me now speak with true fear and trembling. The only way to get Bin Laden is to go in there with ground troops. I think that when people speak of 'having the belly to do what needs to be done' many of them are thinking in terms of having the belly to kill as many as needed. They are thinking about overcoming moral qualms about killing innocent people. But it's the belly to die not kill that's actually on the table. Americans will die in a land war to get Bin Laden. And not just because some Americans would die fighting their way through Afghanistan to Bin Laden's hideout. It's much bigger than that, folks. To get any troops to Afghanistan, we'd have to go through
Pakistan. Would they let us? Not likely. The conquest of Pakistan would have to be first. Will other Muslim nations just stand by? You see where I'm going. The invasion approach is a flirtation with global war
between Islam and the West.

And that is Bin Laden's program. That's exactly what he wants and why he did this thing. Read his speeches and statements. It's all right there.

At the moment, of course, 'Islam' as such does not exist. There are Muslims and there are Muslim countries, but no such political entity as Islam. Bin Laden believes that if he can get a war started, he can
constitute this entity and he'd be running it. He really believes Islam would beat the west. It might seem ridiculous, but he figures if he can polarize the world into Islam and the West, he's got a billion
soldiers. If the West wreaks a holocaust in Muslim lands, that's a billion people with nothing left to lose, even better from Bin Laden's point of view.

He's probably wrong about winning, in the end the west would probably overcome -- whatever that would mean in such a war; but the war would last for years and millions would die, not just theirs but ours. Who has the belly for that? Bin Laden yes, but anyone else?

I don't have a solution. But I do believe that suffering and poverty are the soil in which terrorism grows. Bin Laden and his cohorts want to bait us into creating more such soil, so they and their kind can flourish. We can't let him do that. That's my humble opinion.

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