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“I thought of the importance of asymmetry, of postponement, of incompletion last night, during the Juilliard Orchestra concert, as I was listening to the soul-stirring, soul-disturbing settings for soprano and orchestra of two Whitman poems, composed by one of today’s commencers, Niccolo D. Athens. In the first poem Walt Whitman vows to see a triumph over the thousand little deaths that threaten to destroy us, and in the second poem an enemy is laid to rest in his coffin. Listening, I waited as Meagan Miller, the orchestra, and Maestro DePreist churned through vicissitudes in the first poem and descended through baffled loss towards conclusions which might easily be read, in the texts, as in the first case a victory, and in the second case a tender, reconciled grief; and I was rattled with delight to hear how Mr. Athens kept whipping up the orchestral and vocal frenzy, concluding each poem, not with decrescendos and harmony restored. Rather, both victory and defeat, both life and death, were rung out on notes of abrupt, piercing irresolution, each almost a scream.”

-Tony Kushner, (Juilliard Commencement Address 2010)



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