By Scott Robinson
I doubt that I’m the last musician (and maybe not the first) who’ll want to create a musical piece of eight minutes and 46 seconds duration, the exact length of time it took for a man’s life to ebb away on that horrifying video we have all seen in the news. After I first saw that footage, I wept.
Soon after that, the protests began, and they have continued. When I finally heard on the news the astonishing amount of time that actually elapsed while that man – and many bystanders – pleaded in vain for his life, I knew I had to memorialize that number somehow. How long is eight minutes and 46 seconds? Very late last night, I dressed in black and went out to my Lab to make this video. It was done in one take. All of the flaws and struggles you hear should be considered a part of the piece.
This is something I’ve never done before: a protest piece. It was not fun to make, and is probably no more fun to listen to. Nor should it be. The statement I want to make with this is not only about one man, or one police officer… or even about that one issue, large as it is. There is so much that is wrong right now, so much to cry out about. So much killing. The senseless, ongoing killings of black people. The endless parade of mass shootings in our schools, churches and workplaces. The gang violence in our cities (yesterday saw the confession of a 13-year-old involved in a murder in Central Park). The killing of our forests, our species, the rich and beautiful abundance of life on this amazing world we’ve been entrusted with. And now the coronavirus is killing us, 100,000 of us, some of my friends and colleagues among them. Meanwhile we find ourselves in this time of anguish, of multiple crises and emergencies, being presided over by a selfish, spoiled child who cannot possibly lead, unite or heal, because he fundamentally does not understand or believe that other people are actually real.
We have so much to learn… but some of us aren’t even in school.
I am sorry if any of this comes across as self-indulgent, melodramatic, or offensive to anyone. Please forgive me if it does. This is not about me. I simply felt compelled to make this statement. Silence is complicity. Now I will return to making music for the pure love and joy of sound.
There is one more thought I would like to share. I’ve never done anything like this before, and wasn’t sure I could get through it. By the end I was shaking, and some desperation was starting to creep in. But there came a moment, when my timer showed about 1:20 remaining, that I realized I was going to make it. Sadly, that moment never came for George Floyd.