Do you remember when you first heard about the Supreme Court’s landmark, history-making ruling this past June in the case Obergefell v. Hodges which granted same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide?
New YRM writer Joshua Fishbein had just moved back to the Washington, D.C. area from Nevada. He was driving in his car, listening to NPR, and was ecstatic when he heard the news! In particular Joshua was struck by Justice Anthony Kennedy‘s majority opinion, the penultimate paragraph of which was shared in the NPR report.
“No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.” ~Justice Anthony Kennedy
Joshua found this paragraph to be “poetically written, moving and naturally well-suited to music. Kennedy knew he was making history when he wrote those lines.” He felt so inspired by these words that he did set them to music, and YRM is fortunate and proud to be able to present this new publication to our customers!
After the chorus sings the opening two lines (which express an universal message about marriage), the soloist enters in recitative style, representing the voice of Justice Kennedy, while the rest of the ensemble acts more as a backup choir. Joshua explains,
“In this way the setting was influenced by my background in Jewish liturgical music, where the choral parts, subservient to the melody sung by the cantor, often exist for harmonic support and to echo the cantor.”
This piece is written in a contrapuntal style with certain words and phrases repeated in order to emphasize them. He chose to leave out the final short paragraph “The judgment… is reversed. It is so ordered.” And rather than end the piece with “The Constitution grants them that right,” the first line is repeated as a musical bookend.
Joshua hopes that the audience who hears this work will be impacted by the monumental change embodied by Justice Kennedy’s words.
“I want them to hear the universal love represented by marriage, as well as the gravitas of these cases, in which both men and women were deprived of the fulfillment of marriage and equal dignity in the eyes of the law. At the same time, I also want the audience to hear optimism in the circumstances surrounding these words.”