The Music of Elizabeth Alexander

Let it Matter

An urgent call to deep listening across cultural and class divides

Music: Elizabeth Alexander

Words: Elizabeth Alexander

Let It Matter is an urgent call to deep listening across cultural divides, crafted with grit, tenacity and passion. Its pithy, emotionally layered lyrics are punctuated with edgy internal rhymes and surprising juxtapositions, eschewing the comfortable and predictable at every turn. In its final, luminous measures, this song offers listeners a profound, open-ended challenge: “No one would ever call this easy listening. Listen anyway.”

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Composer Notes

Composer Notes

As much as I want to be open to new information, I don’t always find it easy to adjust my world view. A decade ago I realized I had an inner resistance to accepting that racism was so very deeply entrenched in law enforcement departments. I had never experienced police brutality myself, so it was tempting to imagine it a rare occurrence – yet evidence increasingly showed that was not the case. This resistance concerned me greatly. I clearly had some work to do.

Part of that work included being brutally honest about how hard it can be to admit that your preconceptions are wrong — that “every story has a flip side.” With this in mind I dove into composing what would eventually become Let It Matter.

As I worked on the song I often thought of Circle of Peace, a neighborhood group comprised of youth, parents, grandparents, police officers and community members that has met at my church for dinner every week for over a decade. The agenda of these meetings is simple: To listen to and to speak personal stories, experiences and concerns in order to create a safer, more compassionate, and more just world. It is an act of courage to simultaneously hold your own story and someone else’s story without dismissing either one. But that is exactly what the members of Circle of Peace endeavor to do.

I hope Let it Matter reflects in some way the dedication, pain, grit and hope that keep that circle going week after week. And that perhaps the act of writing this song brought me a few steps closer to “opening up the prison of my mind.”


Let it Matter

You’ve got your own story –
You and everybody else have got a bone story,
Sunrise certain and touchstone true.
A homegrown story that you’ve known
ever since you could say the words for
“us” and “them” and “you.”

But every story’s got a flip side –
Underneath the surface there’s a rip tide
Powerful and yet denied.
To know the story of a stranger:
That can be a mighty re-arranger –
Let it be a downright game changer.

Let that story in. Let it matter.
Let it open up the prison of your mind.
There’s so much pain and glory in everybody’s story —
Let it matter. Let it in.

Let it lead to honest conversation.
Let it shape the things you say and do.
Let it be the bridge that heals a nation.
No matter what you’ve been through,
Your own point of view
Is just a little part of what is true.
Don’t be afraid to let that story in.

Let that story in. Let it matter.
Let it open up the prison of your mind.
There’s so much pain and glory in everybody’s story —
Let it matter. Let it in.

It’s about the fears that lead to fences.
It’s about the dreams that fall apart.
It’s about what builds up our defenses.
You’ve got to open your heart,
Your most tender part.
You’ll find yourself alone until you start
To let that story in.

This is the work of justice,
This is the work of trust,
This is the work that is asked of us today.
No one would ever call this “easy listening.”
Listen anyway.

Let that story in. Let it matter.
Let it open up the prison of your mind.
There’s so much pain and glory in everybody’s story —
Let it matter. Let it in.
No one would ever call this “easy listening.”

Words & Music by Elizabeth Alexander
© 2016 by Elizabeth Alexander



Premiere: Vocalpoint / Jennifer Anderson (St. Paul, MN)
All Voices Choral Project / Lee Hoffman (Sacramento, CA)
Choir of First Unitarian Universalist Church of Rochester / Joe Mish (Rochester, MN)
Choir of Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of San Dieguito / Christine Lehman (San Deiguito, CA)
Grays Harbor Community Choir and Grays Harbor College Jazz Choir / Kari Hasbrouck
Idaho All-State Honor Mixed Choir / Sarah Graham (Moscow, ID)
Longwood University Choir and Chamber Singers / Pamela McDermott (Farmville, VA)
Pacific Northwest UU Music Festival Choir / Elizabeth Alexander (Shoreline, WA)
Singing OUT, Toronto / Jody Malone (Toronto, ON CANADA)
Unitarian Universalist Church of Vancouver / Patrick Scofield (Vancouver, WA)

Premiere: Amasong / Elizabeth Alexander (Champaign, IL)
Amasong / Jill Crandall (Champaign, IL)
Las Vegas Master Singers, University of Nevada-Las Vegas School of Music / David Weiller (Henderson, NV)
McPherson College Women’s Choir / Becky Snell (McPherson, KS)
Musaic Vocal Ensemble / Frances Chiasson (Oliver, Penticton, Kelowna and Summerland, BC CANADA)