Mountain Top for sampler, mixed choir, percussion quintet and videos is based on the dramatic last speech of Dr. M.L.King, just a few hours before his assassination on April 4 1968 in Memphis Tennessee. Mountain Top was commissioned by Dutch national broadcasting company NPS with financial support from the Dutch FPA, for ‘De Matinee’. Video by Jaap Drupsteen.World premiere: May 31 2008 Concertgebouw Amsterdam by the Netherlands Chamber Choir, the Radio Kamerfilharmonie conducted by Otto Tausk. The repetitor was Klaas Stok. The American premiere took place 19-1-2014 at Wentz Concert Hall, Naperville and 20-1- 2014 at Symphony Center, Chicago by Roosevelt University CCPA Conservatory Choir, Chicago Sinfonietta, choir conductor/repetitor:Cheryl Hill, conductor: Mei-Ann Chen.
Published by DONEMUS and PEER Classical New York. Courtesy of the Martin Luther King Estate.
King was a charismatic preacher, and one of the greatest orators of American history, devoting his life to the advancement of civil rights. Growing up in the 60’s I remember King very well, the Dutch media reported about him regularly. Mountain Top is a timeless speech in which King calls for unity and nonviolent protest, while challenging the United States to live up to its ideals . It is moving how he predicted his own death:
We’ve got some difficult days ahead
But it really doesn’t matter with me now
Because I’ve been to the mountain top
Longevity has its place
Like anybody I would like to live a long life
But I’m not concerned about that now
The melodic intonation of King’s passionate speech was a great source of inspiration, apart from the words themselves. I sampled words and sentences, analysed pitch and duration, and wrote it down in musical notation, using this as the leitmotif for my composition. In fact, melody, harmony and rhythm of Mountain Top is based on the original speech. Like in a cantata, King is the lead singer. In order to synchronise Kings words with the live music, audio and video is ‘performed’ by a musician playing an electronic keyboard in the ensemble.