Buchenwald (Original Viola Version)

by Rachelle Armstead

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I originally composed this for viola, but I didn't have a solo viola VST or access to a violist. I recorded it with a violin VST instead. I just got a solo viola VST, so I'm uploading the piece in its original key now. I hope you all like it.

I wrote this piece to accompany Clara Logue's short story, "Buchenwald," for her experimental words and music research project. Throughout the piece, I paraphrase snippets from "Das Buchenwald-Lied," the official song of the Buchenwald camp whose lyrics speak of finding hope despite the prisoners' suffering. Miss Logue's story seems to carry this same theme of struggling to move forward and find peace in the midst of horror, and I tried to portray that struggle in the music.

The short story if you're interested: Buchenwald

The dead grey plane of gravel stretched far beyond my line of sight. Faded wooden planks traced outlines along the ground, marking the ruins of the shacks that had once held so many people. The silence pressed down on my chest as I turned slowly, fingering the shutter button of the camera at my side. It was hard to believe I was really standing here. In Buchenwald camp. My high school teacher, our tour guide, had warned us that this would be hard. I had come prepared for the sort of tearing grief I had felt whenever we had watched those Holocaust films. In truth, I had cried earlier when I toured the crematorium and was hit with a life-sized picture of the stacks of dead bodies. And I had shuddered when I edged forward in the line of people, past the hooks that once held the clothes of people destined for the gas chamber. But in an academic sort of way. It was what I was supposed to do, how I was supposed to feel. Now I was standing here in the middle of the ruins, looking for a photo opportunity. I hadn’t joined in the crowds of people taking cell phone shots of the inside of furnaces and gas chambers. Those were easy shots, cheap and shallow and easy. I was an artist. I needed to find a new perspective, something that would really capture the mood of the place. I wanted to convey to my audience exactly how I felt. How did I feel, exactly? I walked a few feet, looking, looking. Here was something. A little leafed poked out from the gravel in front of me. Perfect. Great color contrast and some nice symbolism… growth and hope even after the worst of circumstances. I snapped a picture. Then, on the horizon I saw a lone, weathered post standing over the ruins. Alone and stark in the dead, grey plane.

Another picture. I moved on, feeling smaller and smaller in the vastness of the camp. Finally I sat down on a nearby log. I was torn. All these people had lived and died and were gone and that was that. It was horrible and that horror was reaching out through years and years and was infringing on my contentment. But I wanted to live, to carve out my own little sphere of life and experience all the joy available to me. And it felt so wrong to want and to have, to flaunt my happiness in the faces of all the deceased. I had to leave.
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released September 14, 2016

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Rachelle Armstead Beaufort, South Carolina

Music has always been my passion. Since childhood, I've taken music lessons and participated in choirs and junior orchestras. I'm currently attending Full Sail University where I study Audio Production in the hopes of becoming a film and video game music composer. ... more

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