New songs for old strings
Jake Runestad is the same age as me (26) and is already making a contribution to society. His new project is described in “Out of War, a Symphony,” an article in the New York Times blog At War. Runestad is composing a three-part piece for orchestra, piano, and chorus hoping to capture the emotional journey that soldiers experience when they go to war and back. He is relying on poetry, memoirs, and interviews with American veterans of the wars in Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq to get a sense of their experiences.
Aside from the social benefit of lifting the veil (if only slightly) for the civilian public about what warfare wreaks on the psyche, Runestad is also helping the cause of classical music. Like other forms of expression which originated many generations ago (including, for that matter, the profession of history) classical music has to confront the stigma of irrelevance. A great way of exhibiting the richness of expression that classical music has to offer is to pair it with the emotional experiences of a new generation. New wine may fare better in new skins, but nothing enlivens the sound of an old instrument like a new song.