ELEGY FOR THE WALL’S UNNAMED, is a work that commemorates the life and musical legacy of Edgar Paul Duker who lost his life to a presumptive disease associated with exposure to Agent Orange while serving in Vietnam.
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial – the Wall – stands as a symbol of America's honor and recognition of the men and women who served and sacrificed their lives in the Vietnam War. Inscribed on the black granite walls are the names of more than 58,000 men and women who gave their lives or remain missing. Although the Memorial itself is dedicated to honor the "courage, sacrifice and devotion to duty and country" of all who answered the call to serve during the longest war in U.S. history, the Memorial does not add the names of those who served and died after the war from the results of exposure to Agent Orange. This music composition, therefore, is dedicated to those – the Wall’s unnamed, like Edgar Paul Duker, who nevertheless suffered and endured long after the war.
Commissioned by Suzanne, Doug and Mark Duker, the composition’s entire melodic and harmonic structures are derived from a process that transforms the name, Edgar Paul Duker, and the phrase, Agent Orange, into musical pitches. Combinations of specific percussion groupings are used throughout the work to reference Vietnamese folk instruments, including “rice” drums, sênh tiên (“coin clapper”) music, and stone lithophones.
The opening of the work musically introduces Edgar Paul Duker followed by a very brief statement of the dissonant Agent Orange musical materials. The works primary theme – a lyrical, stately melody, ensues and is comprised of pitches derived from two transformations of the name Duker. Dissonant chordal sonorities, generated from the phrase Agent Orange, follow the work’s main theme. Edgar Paul Duker thematic materials are woven throughout this dark section of the work, including statements that have been musically inverted to represent how one’s life is turned upside down when invaded by the affects of Agent Orange. A transparent, playful fugue, based on the name Edgar, interrupts the Agent Orange section. The fugue, featuring instrumentation of the Duker family: clarinet, flute, trumpet, euphonium, and piano, slowly gives way to the entire wind ensemble and transitions to a restatement of the lyrical main theme punctuated with musical statements of “Edgar”. The Agent Orange section is reprised, including sporadic inverted presentations of the main Duker theme. The Agent Orange music slowly dissipates and completely capitulates to a series of unaltered Edgar Paul Duker thematic and harmonic statements. The work’s coda juxtaposes multiple statements of the lyrical “Duker” main theme with the “Edgar” motive that begins the work.