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K-State Today

Division of Communications and Marketing
Kansas State University
128 Dole Hall
1525 Mid-Campus Drive North
Manhattan, KS 66506

March 26, 2019

K-State saxophone professor to present new electroacoustic work 'The Loveliness of Air — I Can't Breathe'

Submitted by Jui Mhatre

The Loveliness of Air image

Anna Marie Wytko, associate professor of saxophone, will present the Kansas premiere of "The Loveliness of Air" at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 4, in the UMB Theater at the Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art. A second performance is scheduled at 2 p.m. Sunday, April 7, at the Volland Store in the Flint Hills, 24098 Volland Road in Alma. Both concerts are free and open to the public. Due to the thematic nature of the work, it is recommended that any children in attendance are 10 years of age or older.

"The Loveliness of Air" is an electroacoustic original composition based upon selected poetry and prose of children under the age of 15 who were victims of the Theresienstadt (Terezín) Nazi concentration camp between 1942 and 1944. Of 15,000 victims who passed through this prison camp, 100 returned. The composition and production of "The Loveliness of Air" was supported in part by grants, and was composed and engineered by saxophonist and composer Joseph Wytko. It includes narrations in nearly one dozen languages and various theatrical elements. The poems, prose and drawings are all that are left of these children. Their ashes have long since sifted across the fields.

The piece has an overarching theme of promoting inclusivity versus exclusivity. Examples include the inclusion of acoustic and synthetic instruments — as well as the blending of the two; instrument choices; and a total of 11 narrators and one vocalist in a dozen different languages, to name a few. The title of the composition reflects two motifs very precisely associated with prejudice, racism, bigotry, stereotyping, discrimination, sexism, and demagogues and propaganda. The first and overwhelmingly dominant theme is reflected by the principal title "The Loveliness of Air." These words begin the second stanza of a poem titled "Pain Strikes Sparks on Me, The Pain of Terezín," written by an anonymous child imprisoned in Terezín. The second theme is reflected by the subtitle of the work "I Can't Breathe." These words were the final words uttered 11 times by Eric Garner, 1970-2014, an African-American who was killed as a result of being placed in an illegal chokehold for 15-19 seconds by a New York City police officer.