GONE: Lament for Over 1,200 Indigenous Women
- composed by Elise Letourneau
This piece is to help remember and raise awareness of the more than 1,200 missing and murdered Indigenous women who have come to the attention of the RCMP, as well as for the unnamed and unnumbered additional women who have yet to be counted. May the light find you and your spirit. You are not forgotten. You are our sisters.
A lament is a passionate expression of grief, often born of regret or mourning, in poetic or music form, representing a cry of need in a context of crisis. In many early and modern oral traditions, the lament has been a genre usually performed by women.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police lists more than 1,200 Indigenous women who have been murdered or who are still missing. There are as many stories as there are women, and the details and legalities surrounding the cases are often not straightforward. But the children and families of these women and their supporters have been calling for the recognition that there is something going on in our society that is beyond criminal. The level of violence, and the ease with which it is overlooked, ignored or minimized, is a sign of a sociological problem that allows violence against Aboriginal women. This systemic and reprehensible attitude needs to be identified, examined, admitted, and rectified.
As a composer, I have often processed things that I find upsetting by going to the piano. For a while, I've been aware of the grassroots efforts being made on behalf of Canada's missing and murdered Indigenous women, but on Tuesday March 31-2015, when I was listening to CBC reporting on the acquittal of Bradley Barton in the Cindy Gladue murder case, I experienced a creative tipping point within me, and "GONE: Lament for Over 1,200 Indigenous Women" is my humble contribution to help further the path to justice.
The initial concepts for "GONE" came together rather quickly. Over the course of that one day I created a representational score. I felt a strong responsibility to see the idea through, since the composition had arrived so spontaneously, and also because I had the resources to record it as a sound-art performance piece that very evening.
I spent about a year writing "Requiem for Fourteen Roses" for the 25th anniversary of the École Polytechnique Massacre. That creative process required me to visit, alone, some of the darkest places I've ever been as a composer. For better or for worse, the pathways to those places became well-worn and well-marked for me, and this is probably what allowed me to compose "GONE" so quickly. But what was new for me was to not have to go to that dark place alone this time. I salute and admire the gutsy women who trusted my creative process and vision enough to take that walk with me, in real time and with very little notice, to make a piece that captures rawness and emotion, outrage and concern.
Please accept this as our tribute to all Indigenous women who have experienced the loneliness and degradation of our country's silence.
Elise Letourneau & Friends
Vocalists: Lauren, Jane, Diane, JoAnne, Patricia, Kathy, Marjorie, Mary-Ellen, Marie, Diane, Clare, Anna, Sylvie, Katy, Penny, Pam