Medusa, for wind quintet (2015)

Premiered by Christiana Winds on May 2, 2016.

Third Place Winner of the 2016 American Prize in Composition, Student Chamber Music Division.

CW: Rape, sexual violence.

 

I had a deep fascination with Greek mythology while I was growing up, and the various heroes and monsters that fill these ancient stories. I first read of the Gorgon sister Medusa in the story of Perseus, the hero who is sent by King Polydectes on what was thought to be a suicide mission to retrieve Medusa's head. With the aid of the gods, Perseus is successful in killing and beheading her.

 

However, I did not know that there was more to Medusa’s story until I stumbled across her origin story in college. Medusa was the most beautiful woman in all of Greece, and many suitors eagerly sought her hand in marriage. This came to an abrupt and shocking end when Medusa was raped in the temple of Athena by Poseidon. Athena, in her anger over the perceived defilement of her temple, cursed Medusa so that she would become the ugliest woman in all of Greece. Snakes grew out of her hair and her appearance was so vile that anyone who dared to look at her face would instantly turn to stone, and soon after she was banished to a nearby island where she would live out the rest of her days in isolation. Several would-be heroes arrived to try and slay her, but only Perseus was successful in doing so.

 

The way Medusa was treated by Athena, the gods, and the people of Greece is all too present in our modern-day society, where women who survive sexual assault are often blamed for the trauma that they have endured, while the men who carried out the crime go unpunished. We cannot ignore these crimes any longer, and we cannot continue to brush it off by saying “boys will be boys.” We must believe survivors, even at the expense of friendships we once held dear. For, if you suffered something as awful and humiliating as an act of sexual violence at the hands of someone you once trusted, wouldn’t you be as angry as Medusa?

Please consider making a donation to RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network).

(April 2015)

(Program updated June 2019)

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