The People They Think We Are

Year composed: 2018

Instrumentation: piano, fixed media (pre-recorded sound on .mp3 player or CD), and video

Duration (approx.): 20′


Commissioned by and dedicated to Kathy Supove.

Video segments may be omitted if it’s logistically unfeasible to incorporate them.




My great-grandmother arrived in the United States in 1913 escaping the atrocities of the Armenian Genocide. She arrived after travelling alone for weeks in a country where she didn’t speak the language, didn’t know anyone, and was completely isolated. Her husband remained in Armenia for an additional 15 years after she left, and since the country was in turmoil, she had no way to contact him. My great-grandmother never knew whether her husband was dead or alive for a decade and a half while she completely built her life up from scratch. Fortunately they were able to reunite and start a family, which lead to a new branch on our family tree.

Contrast this with our current political climate.

Families are being torn apart by ICE; people seeking asylum are having their children torn away from them and face the horrifying possibility of never seeing them again. Babies are being torn from their mother’s arms, even as they’re breastfeeding. There are entire detention centers full of crying, hysterical children being kept in cages, wondering where their parents are, wondering where they themselves are. And there are people in the United States – both private citizens and people within our current administration – who view this not only as a proper but necessary deterrent to the misdemeanor of illegal border crossing. People who have the privilege of not having to escape a country ravaged by violence, poverty, and fear, who don’t have to know what it’s like having to do whatever you need to do to save your family.

While I can’t possibly hope to communicate what it’s like to live through such senseless atrocities, The People They Think We Are is my meager attempt to point towards the atrocious state of humanity that brought us to our current policies expressed through dissonant, fragmented, and violent piano gestures juxtaposed against a harsh backdrop of distorted guitar feedback and pounding, arrhythmic drums. The piece also offers an extended prayer during the second half for those still searching for their lost love ones, and is bookended by footage of the annual swift migrations that take place at Chapman Elementary in Portland Oregon every year.

We are supposed to be the melting pot, but instead we are becoming an incinerator.

Copyright © Jay Derderian Music Publishing (ASCAP), 2018. All Rights Reserved.


By Jay

Composer, guitarist, husband, father, pun enthusiast.

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