An Ardent Love Affair, Cantata for tenor, baritone, choir ad libitum and orchestra, op. 97 bis, inspired by ‘Scenario LOCK STEP, a world of tighter top-down government control and more authoritarian leadership, with limited innovation and growing citizen pushback’, by the Rockefeller Foundation (2010)

The full introduction & the full text of the cantata can be read here. And, in order to be able to follow the text with the musc, the score of the version with piano can be viewed here.

Soon after, in early 2020, the coronavirus started to influence everyone’s lives, I came across a report, entitled Scenarios for the Future of Technology and International Development, written in 2010 and jointly produced by the Rockefeller Foundation and the Global Business Network. It can be viewed and downloaded here: https://archive.org/details/pdfy-tNG7MjZUicS-wiJb/mode/2up.

A quote from the introductory letter by Judith Rodin, President of the Rockefeller Foundation: We believe that scenario planning has great potential for use in philanthropy to identify unique interventions, simulate and rehearse important decisions that could have profound implications (…). Most important, by providing a methodological structure, (…) scenario planning allows us to achieve impact more effectively.[1] And in his introductory letter, Peter Schwartz, Cofounder and Chairman of the Global Business Network, adds: This is only the start of an important conversation that will continue to shape the potential of technology and international development going forward.[2]

One of the scenarios in this report is called LOCK STEP, a world of tighter top-down government control and more authoritarian leadership, with limited innovation and growing citizen pushback.[3] It is an absolutely amazing scenario, in that it not only predicts the outbreak of a worldwide pandemic at some point in the near future, it also predicts a number of the government measures, taken to combat the pandemic, that are currently in effect and that have profoundly impacted the world in ways that no-one would have believed could be possible before the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic:

… from the mandatory wearing of face masks to body-temperature checks at the entries to communal spaces like train stations and supermarkets.[4]

Even more surprisingly, the scenario makes valuable predictions that have at this moment in time not yet come to fruition, but indications are that they may well do so soon:

Even after the pandemic faded, this more authoritarian control and oversight of citizens and their activities stuck and even intensified. In order to protect themselves from the spread of increasingly global problems — from pandemics and transnational terrorism to environmental crises[5] and rising poverty — leaders around the world took a firmer grip on power. (…) Citizens willingly gave up some of their sovereignty — and their privacy — to more paternalistic states in exchange for greater safety and stability (…) and national leaders had more latitude to impose order in the ways they saw fit. In developed countries, this heightened oversight took many forms: biometric IDs for all citizens, for example, and tighter regulation of key industries whose stability was deemed vital to national interests.[6]

Impressed as I was by the imaginative predictive power of the scenario’s writers, I decided to compose a cantata about the Lock Step report, as a tribute; a cantata for tenor and baritone, in its original version accompanied by only a piano, as nearly all orchestras and ensembles are currently not allowed to play. I therefore contacted the American poet Michael R. Burch, who in 2016 had been so kind as to write the poems for my song cycle Children of Gaza. Michael liked the idea and kindly provided me with the necessary lyrics for the cantata, all inspired by texts from the Lock Step report. These lyrics proved so inspiring that it only took me a little over a week to set them to music. Having finished the version with piano, I decided to continue and write a version with orchestra as well.

In the Lock Step scenario, China is praised as the country that, better than other countries, succeeds in stopping the spread of the virus:

The Chinese government’s quick imposition and enforcement of mandatory quarantine for all citizens, as well as its instant and near-hermetic sealing off of all borders, saved millions of lives, stopping the spread of the virus far earlier than in other countries and enabling a swifter post-pandemic recovery.[7]

For me, it seemed only natural to quote from the Chinese national anthem when China is mentioned in the lyrics. While searching for the sheet music on the internet, I discovered that also part of this anthem’s remarkable lyrics would fit very well in the composition[8]:

So I added an ad libitum choir to the cantata’s closing section, a chorus that can be added but can also be left out.

I hope that this humble tribute will help spread awareness about how truly astonishing the insights as described in the Lock Step report, written back n 2010, have proved to be, from the perspective of the current global situation. Michael Burch and I would like to dedicate our joint composition to the victims of what Michael Free, at the time vice president of the Program for Appropriate Technology in Health (PATH), calls collateral damage: the extent of the problem that you can create by solving another problem.[9] 

[1] Scenarios for the Future of Technology and International Development, page 4
[2] Scenarios for the Future of Technology and International Development, page 7
[3] Scenarios for the Future of Technology and International Development, page 18
[4] Scenarios for the Future of Technology and International Development, page 19[5] Cf for instance https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/09/emissions-fell-during-lockdown-keep-that-way/
[6] Scenarios for the Future of Technology and International Development, page 19
[7] Scenarios for the Future of Technology and International Development, page 18
[8] Cf https://lyricstranslate.com/en/guo-ge-%E5%9B%BD%E6%AD%8C-china-national-anthem-china-national-anthem.html
[9] Scenarios for the Future of Technology and International Development, page 28

Illustration on cover: How will coronavirus change the world by Veronchikchik

There is also a version with piano, op. 97.

Youtube (electronic soundfile):