INCIDENT (1984) Op.19

Title:  “Incident” (text by Countee Cullen)

Instrumentation: baritone and piano

Date written: June 1984, Boston

Length: three minutes

Premiere performance: Robert Honeysucker, baritone, Michael Dewart, piano, Bell-Bartlett Concerts, March 1986, First and Second Church in Boston

Program notes: “Incident is based on a text by Countee Cullen that depicts the loss of innocence and recognition of racial prejudice. The work’s most prominent formal feature is its change from all white notes to all black notes at the central reversal in the poem. It was written after the composer’s brief, but intense, jury duty in Suffolk County.

Once riding in old Baltimore,

Heart-filled, head-filled with glee,

I saw a Baltimorean

Keep looking strait at me.

Now I was eight and very small,

And he was not whit bigger;

And so I smiled, but he poked out

His tongue, and called me “Nigger.”

I saw the whole of Baltimore

From May until December;

Of all the things that happened there

That’s all that I remember.