20 Minutes of Action

Premiere TBD

for soprano, mezzo-soprano, and percussion quartet

Text by Chanel Miller used with permission
commissioned by Sandbox Percussion
awarded funding my New Music USA

available Sept 2023

25′
(movements I. through V. is 20 minutes, and movement VI. is 5 minutes)

PROGRAM NOTE

In 2016, the trial of Brock Turner was yet another controversial episode in an ongoing debate about rape culture, privilege in the criminal justice system, and campus safety. “Emily Doe” accompanied her sister to a frat party, only to wake up the next morning in a hospital, severely battered and bleeding after having been attacked behind a dumpster by one Brock Turner – who was only caught because two Swedish students on bikes we horrified enough to stop, chase him, and hold him down until the police came.

One would think this would be enough to be an open and shut case, but not according to our justice system – where privilege, attorney strategies, and court protocols can allow such an attacker to walk free after only months behind bars. The press eagerly relayed the grisly details of the event oddly paired with Brock’s impressive swim times, as if her “pain was not as valuable as his potential.” To further exemplify how women are systemically viewed, Brock Turner’s father submitted a letter to the judge before sentencing stating, “His life will never be the one that he dreamed about and worked so hard to achieve. That is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20 plus years of life…”.

We now know “Emily Doe” to be Chanel Miller, who before the sentencing read aloud her Victim Impact Statement – one that has since been read around the world by millions. It recounts the irrefutable evidence of her attack, how shame and anger has flooded her life, and how this event has affected her every waking moment. Remarkably, she chose not to end her statement in despair, but with a message of empowerment to girls and women everywhere: “we are getting somewhere…you are important, unquestionably, you are untouchable, you are beautiful, you are to be valued, respected, undeniably, every minute of every day, you are powerful and nobody can take that away from you.”

After this work was conceived in late 2016, the #Me Too movement has since uncovered countless stories of women who have seen their attackers roam just to attack again while they suffer in silence. We are now finally seeing abusers face the consequence of their actions, but we clearly have a long, long way to go. In the fall of 2019, Ms. Miller released a compelling memoir, titled “Know My Name”, which goes deep into the aftermath of her attack and her wishes for the future. Passages from both her Victim Impact Statement and her memoir serve as the text for this work, which I then sequenced and arranged to express the stages of grief established by Swiss-American psychiatrist Elizabeth Kübler-Ross. I wrote the work to empower girls, women, boys, and men to stop, take note of their social conditioning, seek change, and create a better world where all genders can be their best selves.

Many, many thanks to Sandbox Percussion for commissioning the work, to New Music USA for helping fund it, and to Chanel Miller and Sterling Lord Literistic, Inc. for giving generous permission to freely use her text to tell her story.