The Project

Jeri-Mae G. Astolfi

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Ravello Records





Protest demonstrations at the Wisconsin State Capitol, 2012

"This led to massive demonstrations,

involving thousands of protesters, in the state capitol of Madison, including sit-ins and sing-ins in the capitol building itself."

The “Wisconsin Soundscape” I was most aware of while composing this piece in April of 2012 was the sound of the political and protest turmoil throughout the state over the prior 15 months. The newly elected (2010) governor, Scott Walker, and the Republican controlled legislature, had passed new laws which severely restricted the bargaining rights and power of public sector unions in the state. This led to massive demonstrations, involving thousands of protesters, in the state capitol of Madison, including sit-ins and sing-ins in the capitol building itself. For months there was continuing coverage of these escalating events in the local and national media. Growing out of these demonstrations, recall petitions were filed against the governor and a number of state legislators who had proposed and/or supported the initial legislation that started the turmoil. This resulted in a number of recall elections being scheduled for the summer of  2012, including one for the governor. During the winter of 2011-2012 and the spring of 2012 numerous contentious issues related to the recall efforts kept resurfacing over ever shorter and shorter periods of time, as if compressing with greater and greater heat, all heading toward the hotly contested recall elections of June, 2012. This work was composed in April of 2012, more than a month before the recall elections took place, when nobody knew how they would turn out.


Wisconsin 2011-2012: The Political Whirlwind is a set of seven variations (my “Second Piano Variations”) lasting a little over 14 minutes. Each of the seven variations contains five subsections and the material used in each of the five subsections remains constant throughout the seven variations. Looking at it from a different point of view, one could also say that there are five streams of seven variations in the piece. The work has no separately and clearly stated ‘theme’ as such. The five different but related kinds of material are laid out most expansively in the first variation (call it the ‘theme’ if you like), which is the longest of the seven variations, lasting about a quarter of the whole piece. Each of the remaining six variations gets progressively shorter and more compressed until the final variation, which lasts only about 15 seconds. This mirrors my perception of the political turmoil in Wisconsin during the spring of 2012 when all the arguments for and against the recall elections seemed to me to be fast compressing into their core elements. -JN

Joel Naumann taught composition and electronic music at Eastern Illinois University, The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., and, for 23 years, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he is Emeritus Professor of Music. He was Fulbright Composer in Residence at the Victorian College of the Arts in Melbourne,  Australia; founder of The Washington Sinfonia and a Composer/Director of the Contemporary Music Forum in Washington D.C.; and the founder of The Wisconsin Alliance for Composers, Inc. in 1984.

Wisconsin 2011-2012: The Political Whirlwind Joel Naumann


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