- We are now faced with the fact, my friends, that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked, and dejected with a lost opportunity. The tide in the affairs of men does not remain at flood — it ebbs. We may cry out desperately for time to pause in her passage, but time is adamant to every plea and rushes on. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residues of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words, “Too late.” There is an invisible book of life that faithfully records our vigilance or our neglect. Omar Khayyam is right: “The moving finger writes, and having writ moves on.” [Martin Luther King, “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence – Declaration of Independence from the War in Vietnam,” delivered at Riverside Church in New York City, April 4, 1967]
Urgency is the flip side of patience, and like patience it has its time and place.
In some cases, urgency refers to a matter of minutes or even seconds. Emergency medicine and firefighting are two examples.
Emergency medicine and response:
- Benjamin J. Luft, We’re Not Leaving: 9/11 First Responders Tell Their Stories of Courage, Sacrifice, and Renewal (Greenpoint Press, 2011).
- Michael J. Tougias, The Finest Hours: The True Story of the U.S. Coast Guard’s Most Daring Sea Rescue (Scribner, 2009).
- Jeff Kingston, ed., Natural Disaster and Nuclear Crisis in Japan: Response and Recovery After Japan’s 3/11 (Routledge, 2012).
- Terry Golway, So Others Might Live: A History of New York’s Bravest – The FDNY from 1700 to the Present (Basic Books, 2002).
- Tom Downey, The Last Men Out: Life On the Edge at Rescue 2 Firehouse (Henry Holt & Company, 2004).
Not infrequently, governments are required to respond to emergencies, such as natural disasters or attacks on their citizens.
In other cases, the response time is longer but the urgency is as great or greater. Consider the United States’ entry into World War II and the current need for a response to climate change.
United States entry in World War II:
Will humanity respond responsibly to climate change?
- David G. Victor, Climate Change: Debating America’s Policy Options (Council on Foreign Relations Press, 2004).
- John Urry, Climate Change and Society (Polity, 2011).
Technical and Analytical Readings
Emergency medicine and response:
- Chris LeBaudour, David J. Bergeron, Gloria Bizjak and Keith Wesley, Emergency Medical Responder: First On Scene (Prentice Hall, 2011).
- Judith Tintinalli, J. Stapczynski, O. John Ma, David Cline, Rita Cydulka and Garth Meckler, Tintinalli’s Emergency Medicine: A Comprehensive Study Guide (McGraw-Hill Professional, 2010).
- David Cline, O. John Ma, Rita Cydulka, Stephen Thomas, Dan Handel and Garth Meckler, Tintinalli’s Emergency Medicine Manual (McGraw-Hill Professional, 2012).
- Kevin Knoop, Lawrence Stack, Alan Storrow and R. Jason Thurman, The Atlas of Emergency Medicine (McGraw-Hill Professional, 2009).
- Michael I. Greenberg, ed., Text-Atlas of Emergency Medicine (Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2004).
- Buck Tilton, Wilderness First Responder: How To Recognize, Treat, and Prevent Emergencies in the Backcountry (FalconGuides, 2010).
Governmental responses to disasters:
- Arnold M. Howitt and Herman B. Leonard, Managing Crises: Responses to Large-Scale Emergencies (CQ Press, 2009).
- Howard Kunreuther and Michael Unseem, Learning from Catastrophes: Strategies for Reaction and Response (Pearson Prentice Hall, 2009).
- Girish Bobby Kapur and Jeffrey Smith, Emergency Public Health: Preparedness and Response (Jones & Bartless Learning, 2010).
- Bruce W. Clements, Disasters and Public Health: Planning and Response (Butterworth-Heinemann, 2009).
- Linda Young Landesman, Public Health Management of Disasters: The Practice Guide (American Public Health Association, 2005).
- George Haddow, Jane Bullock and Damon P. Coppola, Introduction to Emergency Management (Butterworth-Heinemann, 2010).
- David A. McEntire, Disaster Response and Recovery (Wiley, 2006).
- Richard Sylves, Disaster Policy and Politics: Emergency Management and Homeland Security (CQ Press, 2008).
- David Archer and Stefan Rahmstorf, The Climate Crisis: An Introductory Guide to Climate Change (Cambridge University Press, 2010).
- Michael E. Mann and Lee R. Kump, Dire Predictions: Understanding Global Warming – The Illustrated Guide to the Findings of the IPCC (DK Publishing, 2008).
- Gavin Schmidt and Joshua Wolfe, Climate Change: Picturing the Science (W.W. Norton & Company, 2009).
- Edmond A. Mathez, Climate Change: The Science of Global Warming and Our Energy Future (Columbia University Press, 2009).
- Anthony Giddens, The Politics of Climate Change (Polity, 2011).
- Steven H. Schneider, Armin Rosencranz, Michael D. Mastrandea and Kristen Kuntz-Duriseti, eds., Climate Change Science and Policy (Island Press, 2009).
- David G. Victor, Global Warming Gridlock: Creating More Effective Strategies for Protecting the Planet (Cambridge Univsersity Press, 2011).
Documentary and Educational Films
- How to Survive a Plague: on the AIDS epidemic, and the activist organization Act Up
Music: Composers, artists, and major works
Robert Schumann, Symphony No. 4 in D Minor, Op. 120 (1841, rev. 1851) (approx. 25-30 minutes), “begins with a bold announcement in the form of a single, multi-octave-deep 'A'. It’s a musical ‘call to order’ which seems to establish the blank, open-ended canvas on which the Symphony will develop. The first brushstroke to fall on this canvas is a descending motif which is the seed out of which the entire Symphony grows. This is the famous 'Clara Theme' . . .” “Throughout the symphony, the music will maintain the feverish, passionate quality of the introduction, even in moments of lightness and joy. This intensity is characteristic of Schumann’s Romanticism. Though the entire nineteenth century is often labelled as the Romantic era in music history textbooks, Schumann was one of the few composers who self-consciously identified as a Romantic during this time, and his music was powerfully influenced by the Romantic movement in literature.” Many musicologists have preferred the original version over the revised version, suggesting the Schumann’s initial sense of urgency and immediacy was on target. Brahms said: “It is a real pleasure to see anything so bright and spontaneous expressed with corresponding ease and grace. … Everything is so absolutely natural that you cannot imagine it in any other way – there are no harsh colors, no forced effects. … The score has not gained by being revised. … It has undoubtedly lost much of its charm, lightness of touch and clarity of expression.” Top recorded performances are conducted by Walter in 1928, Walter in 1940, Furtwängler in 1953, Szell in 1960, Monteux in 1962, Sawallisch in 1973, Dohnányi in 1988, Harnoncourt in 1994, Gardiner in 1997, Rattle in 2003, and Nézet-Séguin in 2014.
A strong argument can be made that Edward Elgar is the greatest composer to leave behind a substantial body of his own works, recorded under his baton. In these recordings, mainly from the 1920s and 1930s with the London Symphony Orchestra, composer and orchestra convey a sense of urgency about the music, as if to say that every note and phrase demanded immediate attention. Cognizant of the composer’s intent as no one else could be, Elgar brought to the music a sense of the passion and immediacy he felt about this music.
- Symphony 1 in A flat major, Op. 55
- Symphony No. 2 in E flat major, Op. 63
- Pomp and Circumstance, Op. 39
- Enigma Variations, Op. 36
- Serenade for String Orchestra in E Minor, Op. 20
- Cockaigne Overture, Op. 40
- Prelude to the Kingdom
- Cello Concerto, first movement
- Caractacus, Op. 35 (1898) (excerpts)
- The Dream of Gerontius, Op. 38
- Falstaff, Op. 68 (1913)
- Cockaigne Overture, Op. 40, "In London Town" (1901)
- 3 Characteristic Pieces, Op. 10
- Froissart, Op. 19 (1890)
- From the Bavarian Highlands, Op. 27 (1896)
- Wand of Youth Suite No. 1, Op. 1a (1907)
- Wand of Youth Suite No. 2, Op. 1b (1908)
- The Crown of India Suite, Op. 66a
- Violin Concerto in B minor, Op. 61
- Cello Concerto in E minor, Op. 85
- The Music Makers, Op. 69
- Severn Suite, Op. 87 (1930)
- In the South (Alassio), Op. 50 (1904)
- Nursery Suite (1931)
- Five Piano Improvisations
- Here he is, conducting his most famous piece.
- Kaipainen, Symphony No. 3, Op. 72 (2004): per the composer, the work’s energy evokes “a chained beast running rampant in its cage and trying to escape.”
- Alfred Hill, String Quartet No. 15 in A Minor (1937): the sense of urgency in the first movement sets the tone for the more self-assured movements that follow.
- Rochberg, Sonata for Viola and Piano (1979): this work is deadly serious.
- Shulamit Ran, Perfect Storm, for solo viola.
- Berio, Naturale for viola, percussion and recordings of sicilian folk music (1985)
- Catoire, Piano Trio in F minor, Op. 14 (1900)
- Freeman, “Under the Arching Heavens”: “Despite music that is almost unvaryingly slow, Freeman draws the listener into his world through the urgent intensity of his vision.” [Henry Fogel, review, Fanfare magazine, Sept-Oct 2021.] The work is a requiem commemorating the 100th anniversary of the end of Finland’s civil war in 1918.
- Myaskovsky, Piano Sonata No. 3 in C minor, Op. 19
- Bacri, Piano Sonata No. 3, Op. 122, “Sonata impetuosa” (impetuous sonata)
- Wolf-Ferreri, Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 26 (1944) (intensity)
In matters great and small, Irish singer Christy Moore has long expressed his concern for the human condition. He has sung of the tragedy of greed and myopia, and the tragedies of personal life, and issued urgent calls to action. This is apparent on these albums:
- “Flying Into Mystery”
- “Burning Times”
- “This Is the Day”
- “Graffiti Tongue”
- “Folk Tale”