Birman Twitter-opera "Nostra culpa" (Sinfonietta Rīga)

Additional Information

I am not an Estonian. Nor am I a politician, and despite studying, researching, and even teaching economics, I am not truly an economist either. Whether I like it or not, and since childhood I have questioned it every day, I am a composer. My words are musical phrases; my language is sound; my grammar is harmony. I cannot give answers to the questions a piece like this raises, due to its inherent nature, other than those answers which are manifested as music. They are still answers and yet they do not pick a side or crown a winner. I hope that they reach the heart instead, and that the winner, should there ever be one, is each and every individual who faces the question of having enough food to feed his or her family as a result of the financial crisis. For this individual, the rhetoric of austerity and stimulus is equally as absurd as it is for me – the composer.

What is this piece and what should it be? I answer only these questions and I do so briefly. I wanted to create a piece that would transcend its time and its moment – something that was more than a commentary on a specific Twitter dispute but a statement on disputes themselves. It is shameful when music is used for political purposes but similarly disappointing when music seeks to exist in a vacuum, self-contained without the context of a world around it, and the personalities therein. Here, I sought to find a place of relevance for a new piece, one that was not only a musical setting of the financial crisis and two personalities who, for many, define it, but a product of this current event, as well. This piece comes out of our crisis and its musical language – or should I say, mine – has been indelibly affected as a result of what has happened in the last five years. It is scarred, it is at times absurd, otherwordly, primal, beautiful, and, in some way and surely by the end: it is hopeful as well.

Commission: Estonian Composers Union for Estonian Music Days 2013, written for Iris Oja and the Tallinn Chamber Orchestra.

Instrumentation: Dramatic voice and string orchestra (9 violins, 3 violas, 2 ‘cellos, 1 contrabass)

Duration: approx. 15 minutes



String Orch. (w/wo solo)
View Score


Other instrumentation


Nostra Culpa