Burns Like Fire

by Bob Ostertag

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Riots, country and western, and gospel. Companion piece to All the Rage.

In October 1991 gays and lesbians rioted in San Francisco when the Governor of California vetoed a gay rights law that had been ten years in the making. The California state Office building was set on fire. I, of course, took my tape recorder. The Kronos String Quartet had commissioned me to write a piece for them, and I decided to transcribe the sounds of the riot for string quartet.

I asked writer/artist/film-maker David Wojnarowicz to collaborate on the project by reading one of his texts. David is perhaps the best known of the queer American artists who have redefined gay American culture in an angry, politicized way. I was one of many who felt that David's work expressed my own feelings in a uniquely powerful way.

David was already sick with AIDS, and we waited for a time when his health would allow us to do the project. Time wore on, and finally poet Sara Miles stepped in at the last moment and wrote the libretto for the string quartet, titled All the Rage.

Soon after David died. His death triggered a spontaneous demonstration in the streets of New York City's lower east side. For my part, I decided to take riot fragments I had not used in All the Rage and make them into a solo piece I would dedicate to David. So this is Burns Like Fire, and this is for David. -- Bob Ostertag

David Wojnarowicz (excerpt from Close to the Knives: Losing Form In Darkness):

"In loving him, I saw a cigarette between the fingers of a hand, smoke blowing backwards into the room, and sputtering planes diving low through clouds. In loving him, I saw men encouraging each other to lay down their arms. In loving him, I saw small-town laborers creating excavations that other men spend their lives trying to fill. In loving him, I saw moving films of stone buildings; I saw a hand in prison dragging snow in from the sill. In loving him, I saw great houses being erected that would soon slide into the waiting and stirring seas. I saw him freeing me from the silences of the interior life."

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released January 1, 1993

cover art by David Wojnarowicz

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Bob Ostertag San Francisco, California

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