First Performance
Memphis, TN, Memphis Symphony Orchestra, 1997
Redrunner Music (David Sampson)
Monument, Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, Alan Balter, conductor; Summit Records DCD 237, 1999


David Sampson (1997)

Often I find that the initial impetus for writing a composition comes many years before the actual creation. Such is the case with Monument. In the late 1980s, I visited the Viet Nam Veteran’s Memorial in Washington, D.C. for the first time. As is the reaction of most, I was deeply moved. Besides the fact that the Viet Nam War was a major focus of my youth, I was struck by the intense reactions of others around me including young children who suddenly became silent and foreign visitors that slowly and reverently moved past the names. The magnificent artistry of Maya Lin’s structure magnified in a realistic and dignified manner the true cost of that war.
Musically, I heard great potential that day but it wasn’t until a commission from the Barlow Endowment for Musical Composition in 1996 that I was able to realize those ideas with an orchestral work for the Memphis Symphony/Alan Balter, Music Director.
Monument is a seventeen-minute single-movement composition for large orchestra that depicts the emotional reactions of a Viet Nam War veteran visiting “The Wall” for the first time. It begins with a tentative, apprehensive, courageous approach, continues with intense recollections of battle scenes with the unbearable fear and unimaginable devastation, and ends with partial healing and a glimpse of peacefulness.
Although I read many accounts by veterans of Viet Nam which opened my mind to their experiences during and after the war, I wish to especially recognize Albert French, whose book “Patches of Fire” (Anchor Books, Doubleday) revealed with devastating candor the absolute terror of combat and the depth of destruction of those that survived. Monument is subtitled “Time only heals a clean wound.”, which is a line from Mr. French’s book. In later conversations with Mr. French, he also described in poignant detail his first visit to the Memorial and helped clarify what I needed to say musically.
Monument is dedicated to all those whose lives were changed irreparably by the Viet Nam War.

Total Running Time: 17:31