Featured Podcast—Larysa Kuzmenko's "In Memoriam: To the Victims of Chornobyl"

By Timm Suess - Flickr: Red Forest Hill, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=14886940

In this piano piece, performed by Lilian Jin, Ukrainian-Canadian composer Larysa Kuzmenko memorializes the victims of the Chornobyl disaster, one of the worst nuclear power plant accidents in history. As nuclear destruction reemerges into the forefront of public consciousness, this piece reminds us of the importance of humanitarian values as an essential safeguard while we engage and make use of our ever-increasing power, brought about by technological innovation. Ms. Kuzmenko describes the piece: 

The opening theme is dark and ominous; it sets the tragic mood of the piece. Following this idea, I quote a sad but lyrical Ukrainian folk tune that describes a grave in the field begging the wind to keep it from dying and asking the sun to shine over it. The tempo suddenly quickens, and the music becomes very rhythmic, creating a rather chaotic atmosphere. The music reflects the mechanical sound of the nuclear reactor. The folk tune has taken on a different character here. It no longer is lyrical and is supported by jarring harmonies. The music signals the reactor’s first explosion at its first climax. Following this explosion, the music becomes very quiet, and slows down. Here, the folk tune essentially has exploded into little fragments, creating a kind of pointillistic texture. At this point, the music represents the invisible, yet fatal radioactive particles that are poisoning the atmosphere. The tempo builds up once again, and the music moves towards the second climax, signalling the second explosion. Here, I quote a sacred chant from the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, asking God for forgiveness.

The piece ends with the reappearance of the opening material, setting a mood that questions the future of our planet.

—Larysa Kuzmenko

You can find the performance, along with other pieces, on our "Podcasts" page.