Letter From the composer
2 fl, cl, bcl, 2 tbn, toms, gl, vib, pf, solo sop., 5 vln, 2 vla, 2 vc, db
For Chamber Orchestra and Solo Soprano (in this recording: Theodosia Roussos) - commissioned by Elizabeth and Justus Schlichting, written for Banglewood 2019.
"I get really annoyed by the usual expectation that every PoC's artistic output must be woke, which is in itself a way to oppress and control their voices."
- Marcos Balter, 2019
My identity is intersectional. I am black. I am gay. I am latinx. I am a musician. I am an installation artist. I am bi-polar. I am happier than your average New Yorker. I am too many things and identify too strongly with each of them for anyone to put me in a singular box. But I know how eager audiences can be to typecast and assign identity. I was going to write about Vertus Hardiman (and still will), but realized it could type-cast me based on recent compositions (many of which are quoted in this piece).
The same undesired result occurred when I thought about writing another piece about being gay - or another piece about being latinx. Moreover still, were I to choose one of these experiences to write about, should I write about the beauty of the experience? Or the suffering therein? Or should I write something abstract - intentionally avoiding the problem of identity authenticity altogether?
I was thinking through this problem out loud with a group of percussionists at Bard Conservatory, and was surprised at their surprise about the complexity of choosing what to write about. Then I remembered - I’ve only had this conversation with other composers of minority experiences. Which means that I have this conversation a lot, but that’s only because I’m fortunate enough to be surrounded by so many different kinds of composers - which I know is rare.
It always comes back to this question: “Who am I supposed to be? Who am I to you?” Always rooted in the desire: “will you let me be complicated?”
Here is my attempt to bring this conversation to you.
Past pieces I’ve written about different parts of my identity are quoted and collaged together in this work in an attempt to create a more accurate self-portrait for you. I believe it is early enough to where this invitation to join me in this complication of creation can help you better understand myself and others moving forward.
No matter what I choose to focus on, remember: I am all of it. Please don’t erase me just because it’s easy.