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N-400 Erasure Songs (2021)

for TTBB Chorus | 00:13:00

by Melissa Dunphy | text by Laurel Chen, Niina Pollari, and Melissa Dunphy

There is no score for this work currently available. Please contact the composer for more information.

Commissioned by Cantus.

Erasure poetry is created by blacking out portions of a pre-existing text to create a new work. Each of the poems in this cycle uses and reshapes text from the N-400, the application form that foreign-born "aliens" submit to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to be naturalized and become citizens of the United States.

"But the most memorable performances came on a triptych of pieces premiered Friday night. Cantus commissioned Australian American composer Melissa Dunphy to write a work on the subject of immigration and she created "N-400 Erasure Songs." The form N-400 is a U.S. application for naturalization. Dunphy asked two poets to black out text on the form, the remaining words forming poetry that the composer set to music. Each of the three movements proved powerful, the first haunting and mournful, while the second pulsed with the anxious spirit of one sinking in the quicksand of bureaucracy. But reassurance arrived in the program's finale, a beautifully moving embrace upon arrival for which Dunphy created both music and text." [Star Tribune]

Cantus' most powerful offering was a set of two "N-400 Erasure Songs" by Melissa Dunphy, the texts created by erasing words from the N-400 U.S. naturalization form. They eloquently conveyed the aggressive agitation of bureaucracy and the warm comfort of a welcome. [Star Tribune]


1. Form N-400 Erasures
Do you
Have
awful
association s

Have you been in
total
terror
Yes/No

If you
EVER claim in writing or any other way
to
have no
country
are you
confined

2. N-400 (an erasure)
Laurel Chen

i.
notice: any immigration
notice: hearing
notice: see
notice: you

ii.
to the immigrant:
homeland is
a process
delayed.

iii.
fingerprints disposable
a number unpermitted
immigrants: are
all of the above

iv.
about the United States:
do not
support
the criminal history

v.
you are what you have
abandoned

vi.
identify: alien
copy: self

vii.
separate your
open wounds in the
process

viii.
verify:
all has
been destroyed

ix.
naturalization can not capture
your free
can not level
your personal
for political

x.
this application simplified
is persecution of
your own safety
to ensure social security

xi.
reschedule
reschedule
reschedule
reschedule
a time
time
time
again time
time
date and
time

xii.
resubmit
resubmit
resubmit

xiii.
please

xiv.
you will
never
belong

3. change [y]our Country
Melissa Dunphy

you Are Home
this IS where you live now
Home
your space
Your Time
Your History

How many have been
persecuted
occupied
arrested
detained changed
Have Been
Failed
lied to
removed, excluded
deported

but you did not
f al t e r
you
are willing
true
release
re form
prepare
S t a n d Firm
you are the best of u s
you will b re a the
free


Performances

  • 23 Apr, 2022: Quincy Civic Music Association at Salem Evangelical Church, Quincy, IL
  • 19 Mar, 2022: Cantus at Goodrich Chapel, Albion College, Albion, MI
  • 30 Jan, 2022: Cantus and Chanticleer at Orchestra Hall, Minneapolis, MN
  • 15 Nov, 2021: Cantus at McGlothlin Center for the Arts, Emory, VA
  • 12 Nov, 2021: Cantus at Moore Musical Arts Center, Bowling Green, OH
  • 10 Nov, 2021: Cantus at Sam and Sue Mars Performing Arts Center at Duke Hall of Citizenship, Harrogate, TN
  • 09 Nov, 2021: Cantus at Oxford Performing Arts Center, Oxford, AL
  • 06 Nov, 2021: Cantus at Main Hall of the Center for Faith and Life, Luther College, Decorah, Iowa
  • 29 Oct, 2021: Cantus at University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, Belton, TX
  • 24 Oct, 2021: Cantus at Trinity Lutheran Church, Stillwater, MN
  • 22 Oct, 2021: Cantus at Ordway Concert Hall, St. Paul, MN
  • 21 Oct, 2021: Cantus at Colonial Church of Edina, Edina, MN
  • 17 Oct, 2021: Cantus at Unitarian Universalist Church of Minnetonka, Wayzata, MN
  • 15 Oct, 2021: Cantus at Saint Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral, Minneapolis, MN