Frederic Rzewski, who passed away in August 2021, was one of the three founding members of the radical trailblazing improvisational collective MEV (Musica Elettronica Viva) formed in Italy in 1966. Alongside his band mates, the groundbreaking composers Alvin Curran and Richard Teitelbaum, Rzewski was the political-revolutionary leftwing marker: he despised avant-garde’s formalist and aesthetic tendencies and looked for ways to tap into real life and real struggles for freedom.
Attica is based on a letter sent by Sam Melville – who was an inmate at Attica Prison in New York and one of the leaders of the Attica Prison Rebellion that broke out in 1971, during which he was shot and killed. The bloody uprising, also known as the Attica Prison Massacre, was a major milestone in the movement for the prisoners’ rights in the United States.
“…I think the combination of age and the greater coming together is responsible for the speed of the passing time. it’s six months now and i can tell you truthfully few periods in my life have passed so quickly. i am in excellent physical and emotional health. there are doubtless subtle surprises ahead but i feel secure and ready. As lovers will contrast their emotions in times of crisis, so am i dealing with my environment. in the indifferent brutality, incessant noise, the experimental chemistry of food, the ravings of lost hysterical men, i can act with clarity and meaning. i am deliberate – sometimes even calculating – seldom employing histrionics except as a test of the reactions of others. i read much, exercise, talk to guards and inmates, feeling for the inevitable direction of my life.”