the Facts they deserve to know (2010)
Instrumentation: electronics (version 1); electronics with chamber ensemble (version 2)
Written for DETOUR’s Election Music concert in NYC on October 3, 2010.
the Facts they deserve to know is a setting of selected texts from President John F. Kennedy’s address to the American Newspaper Publishers Association entitled “The President and the Press.” The press conference took place at the Waldoff-Astoria Hotel in New York City on April 27, 1961. I have always been intrigued by the late President, both as an iconic role model and a controversial leader of great strength and character. Many historians, as well as some conspiracy theorists, attest that this speech was the first step in the chain of events leading to the cover-up of his assassination. Whether I believe that or not, the important thing is for the audience to decide for themselves if JFK’s words have any relevance to our current state of political affairs.
My piece combines live performers with pre-recorded electronics, as well as edited recordings of JFK’s voice. My goal was to create an atmosphere of irony and illusion. This composition depicts the triumph and victory of these prophetic words of truth and reason, though at the same time echoing the manipulative forces that trampled on these parables, as the world watched in horror the end of the golden Camelot on November 22, 1963. The audio file was edited to create many faces of the deception of politicians; not necessarily to place judgment on this man, but rather to question the intent of all political administrations. Whether or not one believes John F. Kennedy was a successful president, it cannot be denied that his words of truth and responsibility for those in power still hold strong merit. Unfortunately, “honesty is the best policy” is sometimes only a mask concealing what really lies behind the curtain.
The very word “secrecy” is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths and to secret proceedings.
We decided long ago that the dangers of excessive and unwarranted concealment of pertinent facts far outweighed the dangers, which are cited to justify it. Even today, there is little value in opposing the threat of a closed society by imitating its arbitrary restrictions. Even today, there is little value in insuring the survival of our nation if our traditions do not survive with it. And there is very grave danger that an announced need for increased security will be seized upon by those anxious to expand its meaning to the very limits of official censorship and concealment. That I do not intend to permit to the extent that it is in my control.
And no official of my Administration, whether his rank is high or low, civilian or military, should interpret my words here tonight as an excuse to censor the news, to stifle dissent, to cover up our mistakes or to withhold from the press and the public the facts they deserve to know.
For we are opposed around the world by a monolithic and ruthless conspiracy that relies primarily on covert means for expanding its sphere of influence–on infiltration instead of invasion, on subversion instead of elections, on intimidation instead of free choice, on guerrillas by night instead of armies by day. It is a system which has conscripted vast human and material resources into the building of a tightly knit, highly efficient machine that combines military, diplomatic, intelligence, economic, scientific and political operations.
Its preparations are concealed, not published. Its mistakes are buried, not headlined. Its dissenters are silenced, not praised. No expenditure is questioned, no rumor is printed, no secret is revealed. No President should fear public scrutiny of his program. For from that scrutiny comes understanding; and from that understanding omes support or opposition. And both are necessary.
I am not asking your newspapers to support the Administration, but I am asking your help in the tremendous task of informing and alerting the American people. For I have complete confidence in the response and dedication of our citizens whenever they are fully informed.
I not only could not stifle controversy among your readers–I welcome it. This Administration intends to be candid about its errors; for as a wise man once said: “An error does not become a mistake until you refuse to correct it.” We intend to accept full responsibility for our errors; and we expect you to point them out when we miss them. Without debate, without criticism, no Administration and no country can succeed–and no republic can survive. That is why the Athenian lawmaker Solon decreed it a crime for any citizen to shrink from controversy. And that is why our press was protected by the First Amendment– the only business in America specifically protected by the Constitution–not primarily to amuse and entertain, not to emphasize the trivial and the sentimental, not to simply “give the public what it wants”–but to inform, to arouse, to reflect, to state our dangers and our opportunities, to indicate our crises and our choices, to lead, mold, educate and sometimes even anger public opinion. This means greater coverage and analysis of international news–for it is no longer far away and foreign but close at hand and local. It means greater attention to improved understanding of the news as well as improved transmission. And it means, finally, that government at all levels, must meet its obligation to provide you with the fullest possible information outside the narrowest limits of national security.
And so it is to the printing press–to the recorder of man’s deeds, the keeper of his conscience, the courier of his news–that we look for strength and assistance, confident that with your help man will be what he was born to be: free and independent.