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Repair the World

Stacy Garrop
Early Advanced
6 min

How does a composer write a work in response to the horrific mass shooting that took place at Highland Park’s Independence Day parade in 2022? I started with research. Joanne Bernstein, a longtime Highland Park resident and the commissioner of this project, arranged for us to talk with a wide range of people about the event, from city organizers and first responders to witnesses and survivors. We also visited the current memorial site for the seven victims, along with a Kindness Rock Garden situated close to the memorial where people have placed painted rocks with messages. Additionally, we sorted through thousands of tags written by people who visited the temporary arch memorial erected near the parade route in the months after the event. As I ruminated over our research, I placed on my desk a stone I had brought from the Rock Garden that had the word “peace” written on it. Alongside it, I put a tag from the memorial arch that was inscribed with the Hebrew words tikkun olam and its corresponding English “repair the world.” The rock and the tag stayed as permanent fixtures on my desk as I completed the process of composing the piece. These objects became my guiding light as to how to respond musically in my work.

What is the role of music in response to such an event? I find three purposes: first, to honor the victims and survivors. Second, to reflect on the inherent goodness of the people who jumped into action to save the injured, who provided resources to the families of victims and to the survivors in the immediate aftermath, and who are continuously working to bring the community together since the terrible incident. Third, to attempt to bring healing to members of the community.

In naming the work Repair the World, I call upon the Jewish concept of tikkun olam that we need to fix what is broken. This idea plays out musically in the piece, with melodies and chords first moving one way, then “fixing” themselves by reversing, as though getting repaired. The entire structure rewinds as well, with sections presenting themselves in reverse order halfway through the piece. I also wanted to express musically that our work to heal the world is ongoing. To represent this, I introduce a repeated note motive at the very opening of the piece; this motive is heard throughout the entire work. I end the piece with this same motive to signify that we still have work to do.

Additionally, I wish to make the universal concept of tikkun olam personal for all who perform and hear it. I invite all presenters and performers to translate the title into the language that is personal to them and their audiences, and to list the title in their chosen language in concert programs. May we all strive to heal the world together.

After the beginning of the Israel-Hamas war in October 2023, musicians began performing Repair the World as a response to the crisis. The commissioner and I welcome musicians to play the work anywhere and everywhere people are dealing with loss of any kind, whether from gun violence, war, or even personal loss.


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