1945: A Year of Infamy has been commissioned to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the atomic devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the beginning of humankind’s ability to annihilate itself from the face of the earth. This extended work of 30 minutes in length will be composed for the GRAMMY nominated Asian American Orchestra (AAO), noted for blending traditional Asian instruments and sensibilities with the improvisation and sonorities of the jazz orchestra, a five member Gospel ensemble, Voices Of A Dream (VOAD), and poet/performance artist Genny Lim. The musical suite will be comprised of instrumental, vocal and poetry recitation sections, with scored and improvised passages for Japanese flutes (shakuhachi, fue), koto, mouth organ (sho) and taiko drums, in addition to jazz big band instruments. 1945: A Year of Infamy will also be informed by Gagaku, the ancient court music of Japan dating back to the 8th century, the oldest continuous tradition of orchestral music on the planet.
In 1995, Anthony Brown was commissioned by the Asian Heritage Council to compose Never Again! (Mô, Shimasen!) to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the bombings, which premiered at the Japantown Peace Plaza on August 9th with SF Poet Laureate Janice Mirikitani reciting her poem, “August 6th.” Never Again! was reprised in 2005 at Japantown’s Peace Plaza for the 60th anniversary.
Initial sketches for 1945: A Year of Infamy began in Fall 2014, with the National Japanese American Historical Society (NJAHS) staff assisting Dr. Brown in researching the interviews and literature in their archives of Hibakusha, the survivors of the atomic bombings. Brown is also researching Japanese Americans’ reactions to the bombings and their aftermath. Poetry and song lyrics in English and Japanese will advocate the abolishment of nuclear armament and reactors in the wake of the Fukushima meltdown disaster:
“How can you look in the eyes of a child And say you’re making the world better for her? When your pursuit of profits and power Hastens our world towards its final hour.”
The premiere performance of 1945: A Year of Infamy will take place as the main musical event of San Francisco Japantown’s annual summer Nihonmachi Street Fair (NSF) on Sunday August 2nd. Other public programs supporting the 70th anniversary commemoration will include symposia with Hibakusha and artists, open rehearsals and workshops with the Asian American Orchestra, Voices Of A Dream and Genny Lim, and educational outreach events at nearby Rosa Parks Elementary School where the Asian American Orchestra serves as artists in residence. 1945: A Year of Infamy is also being presented at the SF Asian Art Museum on Thursday, August 6th, 7pm, and on Sunday, September 6th, 1pm at the Yerba Buena Gardens Festival. The 2016 SF International Arts Festival will present 1945: A Year of Infamy in San Francisco and Japan in Spring 2016, dates TBA.