CHRISTOPHER BIGGS

Patriot Missile
for piano duo and digital audio (2009)

 

Performed by Pangea Piano Project (Blas Gonzalez and Ya-ting Liou)

Program Notes

Basic program note:
This work reflects abstractly on concepts and events described in journalist Robert Fisk’s book “The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East.” The generally humorous titles of the movements relate to the content of each movement and provide a contrast to the serious subject matter.  This work was commissioned by and is dedicated to Ya-Ting Liou and Blas González who comprise the Pangea Piano Project.

Extended program notes:

  1. Border Disputes (don’t drink Saddam’s milkshake)

Iraq invaded Iran in 1980 over disputed territory along their shared border.  During the eight-year war the United States reestablished diplomatic relations with Iraq and supported Iraq’s war effort materially and logistically.  During the war the U.S. sold Iraq materials that Iraq used to develop chemical weapons both before and after Iraq was known to use chemical weapons against Iranian troops.  The U.S. also supported Iran with weapons, about which Henry Kissinger commented, “it’s best to let them kill each other off.”  When Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990—again over a historically disputed border—U.S. response was significantly different.  This was likely a surprise to Saddam who had committed so many horrid crimes already with the United States’ full support.

2. Sanctioned (on refusing to ignore the danger of pencils)

The effects of U.S-imposed sanctions on Iraq were severe.  In 1996 the United Nations estimated that the sanctions had caused the death of a half million Iraqi children.   Madeleine Albright stated that this “price” of the sanctions was “worth it.”  She later apologized for the comment, but she must have meant it.

3. Carnival for Acculturation

The subtle and conspicuous ways in which we are taught how to think and behave are funny:  Invading Afghanistan must make sense. Iraq had something to do with September 11th. Iraq will soon be a nuclear threat.  It is fair to condemn Iran for “interfering” with the U.S.’s “liberation” of Iraq. The Palestinians are refusing to sit down and negotiate despite being offered so much.  It was an “unfortunate accident” when the U.S. shot down an Iranian passenger jet….  Be sure to correctly apply the following terms despite a lack of clear definitions—liberators, freedom fighters, Counterinsurgents, Counterterrorists, freedom-haters, Hitlers, peace-lovers, and terrorists…. 

4. Depleted Uranium (two heads are not always better than one)

Depleted Uranium is a byproduct of the process of enriching uranium.  This waste product of the nuclear industry was made into munitions that the U.S. government bought.  In areas where munitions with DU where used in 1991 cancer rates—particularly amongst children—birth defects, and other maladies where abnormally high.  Who could have imagined that a byproduct of nuclear waste would negatively affect human health and the environment?

5. Forgotten Parallels (series of unfortunate events)

Britain liberates Iraq in 1917
The U.S. liberates Iraq in 1991 and again in 2003
Britain stabilizes Afghanistan in 1878
The USSR stabilizes Afghanistan in 1979
The U.S. stabilizes Afghanistan in 2001

The same promises to the troops, domestic population, and invaded populace. The same resistance, often in the same towns. The same terror and torment.  Best of luck in the future.

 

The score and rehearsal/performance materials are available for download.
Please let me know if you have any questions or if you are interested in performing this work.

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