Trombonist Cole Bartels and composer Brian Mark’s work “Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” was selected as a winner of the MOZAIK Philanthropy’s “Future Art Awards” competition. The work was one of 10 winners selected from an applicant pool of 1,100+ submissions.
At the onset of the national pandemic, MOZAIK Philanthropy “put a call out to artists across the nation to capture this unprecedented moment in human history from a diversity of lived experiences and creative perspectives.”
“Recognizing the healing power of the arts to evoke empathy, awaken critical consciousness, and rally communities to action, we asked both professional and amateur artists from all walks of life to help us all – as one human family – imagine what could come next— a future, reimagined,” MOZAIK Philanthropy wrote.
Cole is pursuing a Doctor of Musical Arts Degree in trombone performance at the Mead Witter School of Music. He studies with Prof. Mark Hetzler and is the Graduate Teaching Assistant for the trombone studio. He also currently serves as principal trombone in the University of Wisconsin Symphony Orchestra.
From composer Brian Mark’s program notes:
“Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” is a solo work for trombone and digital delay processing pedal that was written for Madison, WI based trombonist Cole Bartels and was created as a direct result of COVID-19. The title is a verse taken from Emma Lazarus’s iconic 1883 poem “The New Colossus,” which was a tribute to the symbolism of Lady Liberty and was written to raise funds for the statue’s pedestal.
I can view the Statue of Liberty from my Brooklyn apartment, and it was during this time that the whole situation regarding the pandemic came full circle as I was gazing out the window. I was immediately struck by the 11th verse of this poem, since there is a cruel twist of irony that is currently taking place in America. We are a nation of immigrants, yet it’s shocking that the current administration has placed very strict laws on immigration since 2017, including the recent temporary suspension from April of 2020.
The landscape of New York citizens wearing masks in public, let alone those across the United States, is now also a stark contrast from Lazarus’s plea to “breathe free.” Although the masks are required to prevent the infection of this respiratory disease, I feel that we could be entering a new dystopian age where the freedom to breathe and prosper will be suppressed by major forces beyond our control. The mood on the streets in New York City feels very grim and ominous, yet at times hopeful, as these new “social distancing” laws have put its citizens through fear and uncertainty.
“Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” depicts the current atmosphere felt by many concerned Americans, as it feels that our society is in fact “yearning to breathe free” from a socio-economic, physical and psychological perspective. This piece was constructed as a ternary musical form with a duration of ten minutes, due to the inclusion of the delay pedal loops. I experimented with various techniques and textural ranges of this instrument, as the material contracting and expanding throughout the work symbolizes the poet’s metaphor from this particular verse.
This piece also employs the use of music quotation, as the opening melodic material from America’s national anthem is echoed throughout as a warning to the masses. “Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” also metaphorically alludes to a possible apocalyptic type scenario of our current environment, as this particular brass instrument subtly implies the trumpets from the Book of Revelation (though both the trombone and trumpet are part of the brass family). “Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” was recorded and mixed on May 7, 2020.
This particular abstract video installation accompanies the surreal mood of the music composition. It is comprised of actual news and media footages from various American cities during this current pandemic, and was specifically created for the Mozaik Philanthropy’s “Future Art Awards” Competition.