Clarice Assad


(2012) Pandemonium

For String Quartet & String Orchestra

Duration: (c.a. 12 minutes) Commissioned by the San Jose Chamber Orchestra

Program Notes

Why is noise pollution so often underestimated? Is it because it’s not visible like other forms of Pollution? Do we fail to understand that what we put into our bodies, like air, food, or water, eventually changes our entire structure?

Noise pollution is a real threat to public health and a hazard to our physical and mental bodies. Physically, it can cause hearing loss and high blood pressure. Mentally, it can lead to stress, anxiety, and depression as the situation worsens and our world becomes louder and more chaotic. These concerns led me to write this piece.

Pandemonium was 100% influenced by such external circumstances. I wrote it while in Rio de Janeiro, where I visited for four months, the most I’d stayed in over 15 years. Brazil is my birthplace, and I lived there from 1978 to 1997. By 2012, it was another story. One of the most apparent changes besides increased violence was the level of Pollution in all its forms, noise standing out like a sore thumb for me.

The steady murmur of the traffic, people yelling, and the loud thumping of the music from wild parties past 6 AM made it impossible to hear my thoughts. Tunes filled with obscene lyrics from funk music naggingly seeped into my brain and eventually embedded themselves in my music.

It was one of the most miserable times in my life. And though I expressed my frustration through this piece, the experience marked me profoundly. Only a few are paying attention to their surroundings. The world, crammed with noisy, crowded spaces, has become the center stage for people’s never-ending cry for attention.

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