JIM WALTER No. 5
On a Sunday, September 23, 2001 two large methane explosions occurred underground at the Jim Walter Resources No. 5 coal mine in Brookwood, Al. Many people where I currently live (Nebraska) have no idea that this happened. It received very little media attention because it came on the tail of the terrorist attacks on September 11 of that year. I'm still angered by that.
I have never found writing music to be cathartic, healing or any of that stuff that it's supposed to be. I have always felt that writing music is work. I write and play music for a living, and I even belong to a union (AFofM local 463). I didn't write this piece to help me cope with the fact that my father lost one of his childhood friends in the first rescue attempt. I wrote it so that when asked how I responded to the terrorist attacks with my art, I could say I did something to draw attention to an important event that was obscured by the actions of terrorists and their rabid hunters. I served on a round table where I was able to discuss this Nebraska Public Radio. Now, at least some people in Nebraska know.
This work is not programatic. There are no sounds of toil, no explosion at the climax of the piece, no quote of taps at the end. This kind of programaticism would be a disgusting insult; much like pieces written about the terrorist attacks have been. The piece is just quiet, angry, stunned, and sad.
The following excerpts are from a live performance by Michael Patilla. He will soon release a recording with Jim Walter No. 5 called Mirrors, Stones and Cotton. The theme is high and austere. Next is a section of shimmering cross-fingered sonorities. That stops somewhat abrubtly for a meditative drone section. There is also an extended canon, and tremolo section.