Searching for

journey of a ten through talons

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ZIP Document of Learning #3

Reflect on your inquiry question and how your understanding is changing, becoming more focused, or is perhaps being reaffirmed by your research. What do you now know that you didn’t know when you started this inquiry?

Much has shifted since my last document of learning! After much contemplation and discussion with Mr. Morris, I decided that my original question wasn’t actually what I wanted to get out of reading a section of the book. Instead, we brainstormed a topic that was a) universal, so I could teach the class something that they could apply to their own readings, and b) made more sense for the timeframe I had:

How does one make a challenging text more enjoyable to read?

Basically, how does a reader approach a difficult read before, during, and after the experience so that they will get more out of it? This way, as Mr. Morris mentioned, I can hopefully give the class a few pointers about how they can break down a seemingly large and impenetrable block of text (like much of Ulysses is), and use it in future English assignments such as Romeo and Juliet. I plan to display my learning by teaching the class a lesson.

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How to Be a 360 Degree Leader: Reflection

As outlined in How to Be a 360 Degree Leader, I want to focus on implementing the following principle into my leadership toolbox: “Follow me, I’ll walk with you”. Often, I find myself following a competitive mindset when I’m near group members who are also committed leaders. However, especially in terms of my leadership project, I can implement a plan that will help me be able to properly “lead across”. First of all, I must accept that other leaders have skills that I currently don’t possess, and are therefore more valuable in certain aspects of planning an event. For example, I know very little about decorations, and should support another member of my group to lead discussions for this portion. During these discussions, I will spend effort affirming the leader, because I should trust their judgment and experience. Also, by focusing more on productivity than politics, valuable energy will not be wasted. It doesn’t really matter who emails Ms. Mulder to arrange a meeting, or who is taking notes during a discussion. What is more important is that all of our tasks are being completed at an efficient speed. A connection can also be made to the “lead down” principle: by establishing a firm and positive relationship with my fellow grade ten coordinators, I can also influence the grade nine leaders to “lead across” in our group.

There is very little benefit to result from competing with my fellow team members; no prize will be awarded to those who receive more sponsorships, nor will one person be recognized over another if they spoke a little more during a meeting. A more efficient way of organizing an event involves placing members where they will add the most value to a project.

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ZIP Document of Learning #2

Take a moment to reflect on your inquiry plan. Do you need to make any revisions to your original plan? If so, why? If you haven’t made any changes to your plan, why do you feel you have been so successful in sticking to it?

My original plan was to complete reading 190 pages of Ulysses by Friday, December 15. Unfortunately, I am still 8 pages (around 20 minutes of reading) away from meeting my goal. This is due to the sheer difficulty of reading such a complicated text that requires constant dictionary searches, Irish history Wikipedia articles, and Latin-to-English translations to even begin to comprehend its meaning. I usually read ‘normal’ fiction books at around 1.5 pages per minute, but my Ulysses reading speed is only roughly 0.4 pages per minute. Also, with several other assignments and piano recitals occurring around now, I’ve only had time to read at home every two or three nights. Below is an example of a relatively tame quote from the book:

The cords of all link back, strandentwining cable of all flesh. That is why mystic monks. Will you be as gods? Gaze in your omphalos. Hello. Kinch here. Put me on to Edenville. Aleph, alpha: nought, nought, one. (3.6)

I will finish reading Ulysses before the Zip block on Monday, and determine three reviews of Ulysses that fit best for my inquiry question. I will read all of them before Friday, and discuss essay outlines with Mr. Morris around during CL on Thursday.

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ZIP Document of Learning #1

What is a specific source of information that you have found valuable in answering your inquiry question? How has it proved valuable?

After around a week of reading, I’ve actually found Ulysses an enjoyable, albeit unconventional read. I have found two wonderful supplements of information to help me comprehend the reading: this website, entitled “Ulysses page-by-page”, and the notes at the end of the Annotated Student Edition of Ulysses. Reading the book without other notes has proven completely impossible, as there are frequent references to Aristotelian philosophy and the Bible, allusions to past books that Joyce wrote, and phrases in German, Latin, and French. “Ulysses page-by-page” inserts pictures beside lines that help me visualize the time period that Ulysses is taking place in, such as photos of mentioned objects (ex. frying kidneys, large keys, and Irish towers) as well as creating maps of the characters’ paths around Dublin. The annotated notes are extremely helpful for translations and political explanations, and also make connections between chapters and characters that I never would have spotted otherwise. For example, the word “metempsychosis” (definition: the transmigration of the soul) appears in both “Proteus” and “Calypso”, although the two featured characters don’t know each other.

78/190

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ZIP Proposal: Tackling ‘The Hardest Read in the English Language’

Question: To what extent does James Joyce’s Ulysses deserve the critique of being the most challenging text in the English language?

Big Ideas: Questioning what we hear, read, and view contributes to our ability to be educated and engaged citizens.

Curricular Competencies:

  1. Apply appropriate strategies to comprehend written, oral, visual, and multimodal texts.
  2. Recognize and appreciate how different forms, formats, structures, and features of texts enhance and shape meaning and impact.
  3. Think critically, creatively, and reflectively to explore ideas within, between, and beyond texts.

Tasks:

  1. Read 190 pages of Ulysses (Episode 1-7).
  2. Read four different reviews of Ulysses.
    1. Three academic, one informal.
  3. Write a research essay answering my inquiry question.
  4. Decide whether I want to read the rest of the book.

 

Questions:

  1. What would you like to learn to do/what question would you like to pursue in your inquiry? Why did you choose this skill/question? What motivates or excites you in pursuing this line inquiry?

I would like to investigate James Joyce’s Ulysses by reading a section of the book, and then reading and analyzing multiple reviews of the book and deciding whether they are fair assessments of Ulysses. My question is the following:

To what extent does James Joyce’s Ulysses deserve the critique of being the most challenging text in the English language?

I chose this question because Ulysses is a very formidable part of the English literature. I haven’t read many early-20th century novels, and am interested in the stream-of-consciousness narrative style that James Joyce is renowned (and scorned) for. I am excited to take on the challenge of reading it, and being able to determine for myself what makes it so controversial.

  1. What do you currently know about this topic/skill, and what skills do you currently have that will help you succeed in your work?

I currently know very little about James Joyce and his writing style, or Ulysses. Most of the prior knowledge I know about the book is from this Guardian article. However, I am a fairly avid reader, and can read at a pace of 473 words per minute (according to a Staples.com comprehension test).

  1. What is a specific list of skills that you hope to have expanded on / learned by the end of this assignment?
    1. Learning how to read quickly (this project is only three weeks long), but also with comprehension.
    2. The ability to interpret a text and translate it into something that makes sense for me.
    3. The ability to critique reviews (ex. finding places of personal bias).
    4. The ability to properly identify characteristics that make a book difficult to read.
  2. Who can you approach for support during your work / research?

Mr. Morris, first and foremost. Ms. Walstrom (she has studied the book before). If necessary, other teachers in the English department?

  1. What are some other resources that might be useful in helping you complete your inquiry?
    1. The library copy of Ulysses I am using for the project has a whole section of notes that help explain the meaning of the prose.
    2. This website, which has a complete page-by-page analysis of Ulysses.
    3. A dictionary, to look up vocabulary I do not understand.
  2. How might you demonstrate your learning at the end of your inquiry?

I will write a research paper (around 5-6 pages) detailing my own reading of Ulysses and comparisons with other reviews of the book. For an in-class lesson, I could give groups different passages from the book and ask them to try and interpret its meaning, and write their own condensed version of the passage.

  1. What is your schedule for learning?

December 5th – Finish proposal.

December 5th – Begin reading, annotating, creating a list of words I don’t know, and summaries of chapters.

December 15th – Finish reading, write a review.

December 18th – Read four other reviews of Ulysses and make an essay outline.

  • Approve outline with Mr. Morris.

December 22nd – Begin writing essay.

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Learning Centre Post 2017

The primary focal point of my learning centre was something I deemed as my “Interrogation Chamber”. In reality, it wasn’t that bad at all. I basically created a large rectangular prism out of wood, and then draped some black curtain over it. I placed a chair inside, made a mixtape of some of Shostakovich’s screechiest music, and told people to enjoy! Here are some photos of how I made it.

Here is an Flickr album of my learning centre.

Here is a tour of my learning centre.

Overall, I am very satisfied with how it turned out: I improved on my design from last year and featured more photographs and quotes while cutting down on text; I had a bigger “advertisement” for my center (the four letters DSCH), and a larger focal point (the interrogation chamber). Most of my quotes were ones that were transcribed from my interviews.

Here are some details that were not fully explained in my video:

I chose to put the subheading “Composer, Survivor”, because it not only lets us know Shostakovich’s profession, but also the fact he outlasted the Stalinist regime and lived to tell his story in music.

The paragraph’s text is attached:

Dmitri Dmitrievich Shostakovich was, on paper, a loyal Stalinist, signing government decrees and even traveling to New York to preach the importance of Socialist Realism. He composed propagandist works that glorified Joseph Stalin, and received several Stalin prizes for his efforts. However, he was called “anti-people” by the government, and many of his friends, family, and fellow artists were purged when he was alive. He wrote satirical works of the government, and often spoke negatively of their regime under his breath.

Ultimately, the answer can never be so clear. And why must we apply such labels to people who are composers, not moral beacons? Especially under the thick blanket of fear that was placed by a tyrannical Soviet government, we will never, and should never, try place his political opinions.

Instead, what we must listen to is his music: the Leningrad Symphony, which may have played a part in saving thousands of citizens in the crippled city, and the 8th String Quartet, a work of incredible power and tension that is perhaps the greatest microcosm of what it was like to live under an oppressive regime.

Dmitri Shostakovich was a composer, above all. He composed not only to survive, but as a way of communicating his fear, torment, and humanity.

 

The rotary telephone was to represent how Shostakovich often waited in fear for phone calls by Joseph Stalin.

When besieged and starving Leningraders had nothing to eat, they fried coffee grounds to make “pancakes”. The ones I made (with the help of my dad) were much more tasty, although not many seemed to want to touch them after being informed that the citizens also ate glue, house pets, and sawdust!

The website that generates a musical motif can be found here: http://www.clarallel.com/

The quotes I used can be found here:

He…will be remembered in the same way in generations to come as we revere Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, and Brahms.

Pam Highbaugh-Aloni, cellist of the Lafayette SQ

Through his music he has provoked…an affirmation of the importance of the individual’s ability to express himself, whatever the circumstances.

– Alan Mercer, editor-in-chief/founder of DSCH JOURNAL

He had a compulsion to always behave like a puppet, and then hate himself for behaving that way.

– Alex Ross, music critic of The New Yorker

He creates a turbulence inside you through his music.

– Ann Elliott-Goldschmid, violinist of the Lafayette SQ

He was able to show Russians how horrendous life was, and yet still be able to keep his own sanity.

– Sharon Stanis, violinist of the Lafayette SQ

Simulate the interrogation chamber experience yourself! Go into a small room, turn the lights off, and blast this music: soundcloud.com/lucas-hung-624200580/interrogation-chamber-simulation

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The End of the End: 2017 Night of the Notables Reflection

A quick word of advice for anyone who may pass this, and hopefully it’s on the day of Night of the Notables: do not expect the night, the experience, the feelings, to be the same as any other! The best way you can embrace whatever is thrown at you is by taking it all in, and realizing that you, along with your fellow TALONS, are truly making history.

With this post being created on November 27, 2017, that will have meant Night of the Notables ended five night ago. We’ve rushed so quickly back into the thick of things that I haven’t had much time to catch my breath, or think about my final Eminent person project. A new novel study was assigned, our physics unit is in full swing, and preparing for the holidays has occupied my brain for the most part.

But when I hear anyone say “Eminent”, I’m thrown right back into Wednesday night, right back into the screaming, high-pitched yells of our 9’s (sorry!) and the anxious recitation of speeches by 10’s as we simultaneously tried to set up our learning centre with endless rolls of masking tape and a little too much nervous energy.

Eminent is over.

I repeat that sentence in my head as I write this. It’s over. IT’S over. It’s OVER. It’s…over? How could it be over? Did it really even happen?

The speech. It was strangely comforting, watching us all pace anxiously backstage, even the most confident speakers be reduced to repetitions of opening lines. Despite spending hours with each other every day, we’re never completely exposed to each other. But as I was also treading around, trying to breathe, I felt us all emanating vulnerability. We were scared, and weren’t really prepared for what would happen on stage, and we were okay with letting each other know that. Soon, though, that vulnerability turned to energy, and it was almost as if when one speech was done the speaker would pass on the energy to the next one, and they would mold the little ball of energy a little bigger, before we were all on our feet, desperate to burst on stage and share our final bows as one group as Nathan (sorry, Jony Ive), delivered his final lines.

As for my own speech, I had been waiting ever since I first saw my own sister stand in the library where the speeches used to be held at nine years ago. As I stepped quietly on to the stage, ready to close act one, I felt strangely calm. My incessantly quick heartbeat slowed, and the prose which I had so painstakingly written out came easily, and naturally to me. But it was over far too quickly, and I was to pass off the baton into someone else’s outstretched hands.

The learning centre. I somehow felt like a 9 again! I found so much unbridled joy in repeating nearly the exact same information to the dozens of people who passed by my station. Everyone seemed so genuinely interested in what I had done, flattered me about my speech, and cared about why I put so much effort into this project.

Some thank you’s are long overdue here:

  1. My family. Iris, who spent far too much time instructing me on exactly what the best Eminent speech looked like, Louise, who seems to be more of a Shostakovich expert than I am, my dad, for essentially giving me a crash course on woodworking, and my mom, for telling me to sleep.
  2. Kevin Bazzana. Our friendship began last year when I interviewed him about Glenn Gould. Throughout the project, he answered my panicked queries about who Shostakovich really was, who he supported, and what the point of it all was with the calm, heady attitude of a scholar, and helped debunk many myths surrounding my EP.
  3. All my interviewees, for giving me insight into literally every aspect of Shostakovich.
  4. Stephen Hurley, who helped an immense amount with the livestream. You can find him at voiced.ca
  5. Everyone in TALONS, for the nervous energy, for the “ENERGY!”, and for the energy in the closing circle.
  6. Mr. Morris. You did it! You made it!

It’s over, it’s been over for five days, and it’ll never happen again. Of course, this tradition that seems almost as old as time itself will continue on; learners will make bigger, more extravagant learning centres to accompany their eloquent speeches, and I’ll return to Gleneagle Secondary on a Wednesday night in November to watch it all unfold again in less than 365 days.

But this, this reincarnation of Eminent is over, to be locked away in the annals of TALONS history. This is the edition that marked the start of a new teacher’s leadership (and he did extremely well, FYI), and the end of another. It was breathtaking, exhilarating, full of anxious faces filled with tension, then happy smiles, as all TALONS events are guaranteed to produce.

And I also guess this is goodbye to you too, Mr. Shostakovich. There is still so much I don’t know about you. But does that even matter? You opened your door wide open for me two months ago, and I rummaged around the endless amount of books, articles, and photographs like a kid in a candy store (who did get sick from all of the reading every so often). Thank you, for your music, for your determination, and a life well lived. I don’t think I’ll ever truly understand what you had to go through in your life, but at least now I know that in times of torture, fear, and hopelessness, music will always prevail.

To whoever reads this: do something that makes you feel what I felt on November 22, 2017: the feeling of craziness, extreme panic, total isolation, complete companionship, and the dream of wanting to do it all over again in a heartbeat.

And ultimately, whether it was the learning centre or speech, getting lost in the joy of creating something, someone that I love..

So long, Eminent Person project.

Until…

*As for the questions I set out to answer for myself at the start of the project: I scribbled down shorthand answers throughout my project, whether it be during research, interviews, or at 12 AM in my bed. Should I be given a chance in Socials to edit and synthesize them (seeing as a few of my questions were very broad, and could easily tie into the BC Curriculum), they will be posted!

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SO MANY INTERVIEWS: Eminent Interviews 2017

Ah, Interviews (I think by now it deserves the royalty of a proper noun). I completely forgot how invested I was in this portion of Eminent: the constant Gmail updating, the feeling of complete joy as I read the words “Yes, I’d be happy to help you with your project”, the pacing around my room as I anxiously waited for my interviewees to pick up, and, best of all, getting lost in conversation with the best of the best in the classical music business.

Having conducted two successful and lengthy interviews with some pretty notable experts for my project last year, I must confess that I felt a certain level of expectation on my shoulders as I prepared to send out interviews again.

Here are the experts I contacted:

Richard Taruskin – Shostakovich scholar, written several wonderful essays about him (see my Annotated Bi-blog-raphy).

Eugene Osadchy – Russian cellist, now a professor at University of North Texas.

Alex Ross – music critic of the New Yorker. He wrote a great chapter about Shostakovich in his book The Rest is Noise.

David Fanning – author of Shostakovich Studies, prof. at University of Manchester.

Judith Kuhn – Shostakovich scholar.

Alan Mercer – founder/editor-in-chief of DSCH Journal, a twice-year publication dedicated to the composer.

Vladimir Ashkenazy – notable Russian pianist.

Marietta Orlov – former Romanian State Pianist, currently a professor at University of Toronto.

Lafayette String Quartet – based in Victoria, all are professors at University of Victoria. These include:

  1. Ann Elliott-Goldschmid
  2. Sharon Stanis
  3. Joanna Hood
  4. Pam Highbau-Aloni

Here is the following email I sent all of them (some were in variation; ex. for musicians I focused on how I am a pianist, if I had a personal connection with the contact I would state it too):

My name is Lucas Hung, a student at Gleneagle Secondary School near Vancouver. I am completing a project for my English 10 class where we are to complete a month-long study about an “eminent” person of our choice. I have been asked to conduct an interview with an expert in the field of my subject, Dmitri Shostakovich. The objective of this interview is for me to gain a more in-depth understanding of Shostakovich, and also learn how to properly develop interview questions.

I am requesting permission to interview you about your experiences with writing about Shostakovich. I am an aspiring classical pianist myself, and have been fascinated by his story and his ability to produce music of such great emotional quality despite his creative conditions, as well as the scholarly controversy surrounding his personal beliefs and personal life after his death.

I would greatly appreciate it if you could spare some time from your busy schedule to provide me with some insight about Shostakovich and performing his music, or direct me towards someone else that could help me as well.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at xxxxxxxxxxxx, or lucascwhung AT gmail.com. Or, you may also contact my English teacher, Nathan Morris, through email at xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx.

Thank you for your time. I look forward to hearing from you!

Sincerely,

Lucas Hung

 

I got two responses by the next morning. Osadchy politely declined, but gave me four books to read about Shostakovich. The manager of the Lafayette SQ agreed to contact them. It was a start!

My promising beginning quickly faded away to nothing. David Fanning responded, stating he was too busy, and sent me to contact Judith Kuhn. It seemed as if all hope was lost; there were only two weeks until Night of the Notables, and I wouldn’t have a single interview to show off.

Then, it happened. An innocuous email popped into my inbox on a Wednesday morning, sent from New York: Alex Ross had agreed to chat with me! We were able to talk on the phone for nearly an hour, and I was particularly interested in his investigative, nearly-forensic attitude to researching Shostakovich. Also, it was quite humbling to hear someone so knowledgeable about a specific person :P.

Soon, three more members of the Lafayette Quartet responded as well (the fourth, Joanna Hood, did agree, but has yet replied my email with my questions). They had all studied with Rostislav Dubinsky, a violinist in a Russian string quartet that knew Shostakovich personally. They weaved in stories about what their teacher had told them about living in an oppressive regime, and I came away with a more personal look into Shostakovich’s life.

Only Ms. Highbau-Aloni send me answers through email. Here are a few of her answers:

Question: How much do you take in account his life/circumstances under which he composed into your interpretation [of his music]?

PHA: With Shostakovich, we learned from our great teacher Dubinsky, the more powerful message is stated with objectivity and almost a stoic approach. As performers we could feel and take into account his struggles, but his music’s message is best served when the rhythm, pulse and line are played truly and without “over interpretation”. I believe for Shostakovich his music and genius were something that allowed him to rise above his life struggles and circumstances.

Question: Did your teacher have a favourite story about Shostakovich that he liked to tell?

PHA: Rostislav Dubinsky would tell may (sic) stories, but one I remember is when Dubinsky approached Shostakovich and asked if he would mind that Dubinsky would like to transcribe a couple of the Preludes and Fugues written for piano for string quartet. Shostakovich asked which ones Dubinsky was thinking of and Dubinsky replied, “No. 1 and No. 15” Right there and then, Shostakovich replied, yes, No. 1 is fine as it is, and then he seemed to run the entire no. 15 in his head with his hand nervously rubbing his head and responded quickly – ‘Yes, it will work, but transpose it from Db to Eb as it will work better for strings.’  Dubinsky told this story to demonstrate just how brilliant Shostakovich was.

 

Alan Mercer and Judith Kuhn also agreed to answer questions through email. Mercer’s responses were particularly insightful about Shostakovich’s rich and complicated legacy. Attached are a few notable answers:

Question: Should Shostakovich be considered a role model or be admired for his actions? 

AM: As a genius composer – of course he can be admired and his ability to work in conditions of extreme adversity held up and respected but for us in 2017 to understand the context in which he lived and worked is, in my view too remote a notion for us to pass any form of judgement on the man and his actions

Question: What is one statement/question you would tell/ask him if you could meet him right now?

AM: I would thank him for his dedication to composing music that has such an important part in my life, and those of many others. Through his music he has  provoked joy, intense reflection and an affirmation of the importance of the individual’s  ability to express himself,  whatever the circumstances.

 

What I learned from the interview process:

  1. Ask questions that got you the answers you’re looking for.
    1. Ask questions that go below the surface of normal interview questions – What is your specific opinion about this composition and why? What is the historical significance of this event? Were most of his conflicts internal or external? To what extent was fear a motivating factor in his life?
  2. Phone interviews are preferable to emails. First and foremost, speaking is easier than writing (as I found), and more information can be told in 30 minutes of speaking than the same amount of time spent typing.
  3. Only request to interview experts whose answers you really care about. This will save you much time and energy.
  4. Interviews are so much fun!!!! Experts are literally giving you a lecture for FREE!

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A Two Minute Monologue in the Style of My EP: Speech Post 2017

Here it is! I was probably most apprehensive about this part of the project; I felt tons of inherent pressure to create a speech just as powerful and affecting as both my sisters has, and I personally consider the speeches to be the pinnacle of Night of the Notables, and pretty much the TALONS program.

I did it! I had to cut down my word count from 700 to 300, and practiced so much the last few nights I tasted blood at the back of my throat when I finally decided to attempt to sleep. However, as I stood on stage, feeling as confident as ever, yet vulnerable in a way that eerily reminded me of the struggles my own Eminent Person had to fight in his life, I felt relieved that all the work I had undergone allowed me to be as expressive as possible.

Thank you, to Melissa, Deon, Ms. Walstrom, Phia, Mackenzie, Tori, Emily, Yuwen, my great sisters, my dad, and Cailum for helping me shape my speech into something I was so proud of.

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Draft 1:

Here I am.

Your hero, your dissident, your saviour, your defiant answer to Stalin.

And as of right now, your newest member of the Soviet Communist Party.

I thought the fear was over. Those sleepless nights, anticipating the sharp “rap-rap-rap” on the door by the Secret Police, waiting to rip me away from your family and everyone I cared about. I always packed a suitcase back then, ready to leave at any moment when they came to take me. Every step I took was haunted, haunted by the disappearances of my best friends. Except they never really left, always returning to torment me with a reminder that I now carried their burden, I now carried the torch, the responsibility to avenge their needless deaths at the hand of a single dictator. The fear had seemed to dissipate with the last of Stalin’s breaths – slow, agonizingly long, and seemingly endless. But let me tell you something about fear. It never leaves. It is always lurking at the edge of your conscience, nibbling away at everything good in your life.

And now it’s inside me. I could have said no, could have resisted Khrushchev and his cronies, and wouldn’t have been killed, killed like so many of my friends, under Stalin. “A Friend of the People”. Now I am the newest member of that regime, a regime stained with blood everywhere, now on my hands, my music.

Am I not made of evil? No, no, Dmitri, they tell me. You are a tremendous composer, a tremendous man of great renown. The premiere of one of my symphonies garnered worldwide acclaim, I became a war hero, I was featured on the cover of TIME. Yet nothing satisfied me at all. I thought it at least got me a reprieve, a few years, that Stalin wouldn’t dare denounce me when the whole world was staring at me.

  1. A decree, declaring that my music was made of evil. All my music was banned, and at a conference afterwards, I was to give a speech. At the last moment, a piece of paper was shoved into my hands. My eyes swam as the scanned the page, declaring that I supported the accusations, as well as supporting the condemnations of other composers. My friends, my colleagues. I stood there and read, tried to get it over with as quickly as possible, but the damage had been done. My first instance of cowardliness was through. It soon weaved its way into my blood, intertwining with my fear. Cowardly fear. I made speeches in the USA glorifying the Communist Party, I signed documents declaring I supported the party. I called myself a “paltry wretch, a parasite, a puppet, a cut-out paper doll on a string!!” But I never thought I would actually become the evil, embody the evil.

This was the final straw, a symphony of shrieks, catcalls, ear-splitting notes, building up, the pain, the torture, the torment!

Then nothing, a single line carrying out its part like its final breaths, the final breaths of a generation, the final breaths of freedom. Dying away, without hope, without light. Morendo.

So when you listen to my music, hear my pain, hear my suffering. I wrote to give to the people what Communism and Fascism has taken away from them: their freedom, their integrity. For when this hell passes, and whatever monster replaces it, my music, and only my music, will still remain.

Do not call me your hero. Heroes answer to what is wrong by acting on their morals. Heroes are brave. They risk it all, often not to be heard. And in Soviet Russia, their cries are stamped out, like a tiny flame in a dry meadow quickly suffocated under a steel-toed boot. Do not ever make the mistake of martyring me and my music.

I am not brave, and I am not a hero. I am just a composer.

A composer that survived.

 

Draft 10:

Here I am.

 

Dmitri Shostakovich. Your hero, your dissident, your defiant answer to Stalin.

 

And as of right now, your newest member of the Soviet Communist Party.

 

Funny, how even when you become a part of what you fear, it never fails to torment you. I spent thousands of sleepless nights waiting for the “rap-rap-rap” (someone stomps, I jump) on my door, preparing to be dragged into a chamber, and exactly like so many of my friends and family who were declared enemies of the people, be sh- (cut off here). But instead of doing something, anything, I kept quiet.

 

Then, at a conference in 1948, I found myself with a script that was shoved into my trembling hands moments before I stumbled to a podium. It declared that I supported government accusations that my own music, loved around the nation, was destructive and hideous, and deserved to be banned. Under the fatherly stare of Comrade Stalin and his henchmen, I read the speech word for word.

 

Soon, it seemed like only cowardice ran in my veins. I signed propagandic documents, and read more speeches in support of these (dramatic pause) murderers. I was a “parasite, a puppet, a cut-out paper doll on a string!” But I never thought I had it in me to become the evil. Now this, this is the final straw, a symphony of shrieks, catcalls, ear-splitting notes, an erupting crescendo, the pain, the torture, the torment!

 

Then, a single note dying away, without hope, without light. Morendo.

 

When you listen to my music, hear my suffering in every single note. As the world was suffocating me, I used it to hide from the fear. Even when it was inside me.

 

Do not call me a hero. Heroes are brave. They risk it all.

 

I am just a composer. A composer who survived.

 

Is that not enough?

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