The title refers to the theme of the work (the word “beat”) and a play on the terms Beats Per Minute (heart rate, metronome marking) and Revolutions Per Minute (ie, measure of speed at which vinyl records or CDs spin). The revolution referred to is the literal, literary and musical revolution that has and continues to take place since the mid 20th century, resulting in societal, philosophical and sonic shifts in the evolution of music.
BPR draws on historical, philosophical, literary and musical notions of the words “Beat” (ie, Beats Per Minute such as heart rate or metronome marking and “Revolution” (ie, Revolutions Per Minute, a measure of speed at which vinyl records or CDs spin) incorporating both the anti-establishment writings of the Beat Generation and the legacy of social and political activist Gil Scott-Heron (“The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”).
The beat, historically speaking, has been at the forefront of any Revolution, from the battlefield (marching drum beats or building the emotion of the charge) to the streets of New York City (protest chants, dance styles). “Beat” has also been used to define a social and literary movement in America, namely, the countercultural Beat Generation led by the poets Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs. Gil Scott-Heron’s poem “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” set to the beat of drums sheds light on the struggle for equality.
The score of BPR is infused by Jazz, the soundtrack to the Beat Generation, with a nod to the bassist Charles Mingus, who incorporated spoken elements in his music, Gunther Schuller’s Third Stream, a synthesis of jazz and classical with strong improvisational elements and the work of Gil Scott-Heron and the Last Poets, who’s blending of spoken text and music influenced what is known as rap and hip hop.
"The revolution takes place in your mind. Once you change your mind and decide that there's something wrong that you want to effect that's when the revolution takes place... When you want to make things better you're a revolutionary.” Gil Scott-Heron
Program notes by Martha Mooke