on Southern monuments, myths, and histories
Red hot sun turning over is a concert-length, multimedia piece for mezzo-soprano, wind ensemble, wind quintet, archival sound and film by composer David Kirkland Garner exploring Southern monuments, myths, and histories. Using music, sounds, and images from the civil war era and the early 20th century, the music erects monuments and tears them down, writes and re-writes histories, exposes the complex web of southern myths, and confronts the nostalgia and pain surrounding Confederate monuments in the South. My approach is informed by research into Civil war history, the history of the South, African American history, and primarily through an exploration of the history of racism and constructions of whiteness, which are inextricably linked.H
Ultimately, I hope this project will spark curiosity in listeners to investigate the complicated history of Confederate monuments in the South and take action to aid in the efforts to remove all Confederate monuments or accurately contextualize them and also to create new memorials to the history of white atrocities, slavery, reconstruction, and Jim Crow laws that tell a more complete story of the South.
Full disclosure: I am a privileged, white, straight guy from the South. My great-great- grandfather fought in the Civil War for the Confederacy and gave his son, my great-grandfather, the middle name Kirkland after a Confederate general. As I hope this work shows, my primary goal is to offer an anti-racist artistic work and website that contributes to the public discourse on racism, Southern history, and Confederate monuments and symbols forward. As a white, privileged, straight male from the South, I remain humble to the fact that my implicit biases have inevitably crept into this work. I ask your patience and forgiveness as I continue to learn and integrate knowledge into my life and work.
The 80-minute, four-part, concert-length work features four types of movements:
four MONUMENTS create aural monuments by sonifying (turning data into sound) information on the Confederate monuments erected/dedicated between 1861 and 2018;
four PEDESTALS present reinterpretations (misinterpretations?) of Civil War-era band music using techniques like time stretching and granularization, all while commenting on the way we remember (or mis-remember) collectively;
four INTERLUDES reflect on reconstruction, the Jim Crow laws, mass incarceration of African Americans in the South, the white-washing of history, appropriation, oppression, suppression, and erasure;
and four ARIAS act as nostalgic, at times warm and restorative and at times reflective and critical, explorations of the idea that problematic people and tragic events can create beautiful art and also examining how the line emotional line between nostalgia and trauma is razor-thin.
My goals for this website are as follows: to be an archive to listen to the music and watch the video; to be a place to investigate the structure, ingredients, and quotations in the composition, learning about the research that goes into a work of concert music; and finally a space to explore the research into the history of confederate monuments, racism, and the South that contributed to this works' conception. I invite you to explore the music, video, research, reading, and resources linked throughout this site.
I hope that this work will be performed across the Southeast in the coming years and with it events and discussions around the issue of what to do with Confederate monuments and symbols.
Finally, I would like to acknowledge the Office of the Provost’s Internal Grant Programs at the University of South Carolina for providing funding for this project.