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Flute, Clarinet in Bb, Percussion, Piano, Soprano, Violin, Viola, Cello, Tape

Hersh,Howard (1940-)
Sex  Male
Shrapnel in the Heart
Written  1991
Comments  Since its dedication in 1982, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial has served as a crossover point through which the living can communicate with the dead. Spontaneously and continuously, survivors have left behind them notes and letters, poems, pictures, trinkets, teddy bears, medals, and flowers, through which they hope to reach the spirits of the soldiers who can no longer speak back. It is these letters that inspired and provided the material for Shrapnel in the Heart. The work's soprano takes the role of Dusty, a combat nurse who is standing a deathwatch over a young soldier. Her verses are interrupted, first by the live ensemble, then by the ensemble in concert with two pre-recorded groups, and finally, in the largest section of the work, by a series of readings of letters, first singly, then in pairs, then layered from each of the four channels. The opening letters are from a mixed group of survivors - mothers, wives, vets, children, siblings - but come to focus in on groups of writers: buddies, girlfriends, and finally, mothers. At the conclusion of this section a speaking chorus recites some of the 58,000 plus names that are inscribed on the monument. Dusty returns, now accompanied by the ensemble, and sings her last verses of farewell. The title of the work is taken from a collection of letters edited by Laura Palmer and published by Vintage Books. She, in her turn, took it from an interview with one of the letter writers, who described the loss of a loved one to war as a wound that will not heal, caused by "shrapnel in the heart". The composition was premiered in 1991 in Sacramento, California by Music Now; In 1994, it was performed as part of a program at the California Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
Publisher  H. Hersh

Prepared on Thu Apr 30 20:22:45 2009