Pyrrhic Victory

For solo percussion
January 2019
Composed for Peyton Miller
Premiere coming in September of 2019 — stay tuned!

Program notes:

A pyrrhic victory is a victory that is so hard fought that the victor loses more than they gain. I'm struck by how often many people (myself included) make the calculation that the price of a victory is worth the spoils of the victory.

This piece strives to own this tragic disposition, building impossibilities into its structure and 􏰀nding solutions for seemingly reckless choices. It begins in the ether: abstract, cool, and detached. From that primordial sludge, the piece builds to a frenzy of activity, ramping up to a rate that is clearly unsustainable. It ends by slowly breaking back down into a wash of environmental ambiance. This might, indeed, be a model for the ticking clock humankind's existence on this planet. But it might be a metaphor for something much smaller too; perhaps it’s an individual maturing over time, generously allowing themselves the luxury of personal growth.

The ultimate pyrrhic victory facing our society at this moment is climate change. We’re carelessly wasteful, sacrifcing the longevity of our environment for short term convenience. We make the calculation that plastic packaging, or oil for cars, or enabling corporate greed, is more important than living in a world that could actually support our existence. At what point do we understand that the cost of these choices is the actual air we breathe?

All pyrrhic victories do not have to be in vain. To quote the revolutionary thinker Grace Lee Boggs, “these are the times to grow our souls.” If we open our ears and hearts and listen to history, we can grow and create unimaginable solutions to challenging problems. This is hard work, urgent work, and work that can’t be done by anybody but us.

I hope that this piece inspires the performer and the listener to think clearly about the costs associated with our transactional way of engaging our world. As we move forward into the second decade of the 21st century, we have the unique opportunity to make our world anew.

- Michael Malis, February 2019