From Press Material before the premiere:
The Thai government has asked composer Somtow Sucharitkul to create a large-scale work as a memorial for the September 11 tragedy in the United States. The work will form part of a concert dedicated to the tragedy and to world peace, which will take place on January 11 next year. The concert will also include another specially commissioned work, the World Peace Overture by Austrian composer Klaus Ager, former director of the Mozarteum in Salzburg.
When asked by Dr. Sugree Charoensook, director of the event, to write a memorial piece for this concert, Somtow demurred. He had already been asked by the Norwegian Government to compose a song cycle, Songs Before Dawn, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Nobel Peace Prize; the work was just finished and is just about to go into rehearsal for its December premiere in Bangkok. "My feelings about the tragedy in New York and Washington are very personal," he said. "I have friends right now
digging in the rubble for bodies, helping on the anthrax team. In the 1970s, I even worked in a small office in the Pentagon, helping then Secretary of the Navy William Middendorf with musical arrangements. I'm a child of both Thailand and America.
At first, I did not want my private grief to become hijacked into a media circus. Also, working in the music community in Bangkok is fraught with conflicts and petty factions. I did not think I could deal with that at the same time as doing the six-month job of writing a large-scale piece within a quarter of the time it would normally take."
However, Somtow kept receiving emails from friends and acquaintances in the States urging him to write the music, naming friends who had died in the tragedy, friends whose lives had been devastated.
He remembered that while he was spending time as a Buddhist monk a few months ago, during meditation, lines from T.S. Eliot's Four Quartets kept whirling around in his mind. It was those lines that came to him again: "The dove descending breaks the air/With flame of incandescent terror .... Who then devised the torment? Love." "I wept," Somtow said, "and then I began
composing the Requiem. At that point, it was no longer about politics; it was about finding hope, conciliation, and renewal in the ruins."
Texts actually set include four poems about death by Emily
Dickinson, and the moving "Reconciliation" by Walt Whitman.