MARIE-CLAIRE SAINDON

choral, instrumental, traditional and multimedia music

THE GIRL WITH THE NUMBERS

La fille aux chiffres

TITLE: The Girl With The Numbers

INSTRUMENTATION: SSA+divisi a cappella

TIME: 3m45s

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SAMPLE: click here

TEXT

Can a Black student

take part
as a scholar, a classmate

can “separate but equal” finally unite?
Why not?

 

I am no better than anyone, but no one is better than me.

 

Can a woman
pioneer
as an expert, a master

can a “computer in skirts”

change the script?
Why not?

 

I am no better than anyone, but no one is better than me.

 

Can a Black woman
challenge
as a colleague, an equal
can the “girl with the numbers” balance the question
and reach for the moon?
Why not?

 

I am no better than anyone, but no one is better than me.

Traduction de courtoisie:

 

Un étudiant Noir

peut-il participer

en tant qu'universitaire et camarade de classe ?

« Séparés mais égaux », peuvent-ils enfin s'unir ?
Pourquoi pas?

Je ne suis pas meilleur que personne d'autre, mais personne n'est meilleur que moi.

Une femme peut-elle être

une pionnière en tant qu'experte et maître ?

un « ordinateur en jupes » peut-il changer le scénario (le « script informatique ») ?
Pourquoi pas?

Je ne suis pas meilleur que personne d'autre, mais personne n'est meilleur que moi.

Une femme Noire peut-elle contester en tant que collègue égale aux autres ?

 La « fille aux chiffres » peut-elle équilibrer le problème

et atteindre la lune ?
Pourquoi pas?

Je ne suis pas meilleur que personne d'autre, mais personne n'est meilleur que moi.

PRORGAM NOTES

 

“Get the girl.” On February 20th 1962, John Glenn was the first American to launch into space and orbit the Earth. Friendship 7’s success heavily depended on the exactitude of the rocket trajectory’s calculations. A few days prior to the mission, Glenn trusted his life with only one person to confirm by hand these IBM-generated numbers: Katherine Johnson, 44 year-old mathematician; daughter, sister, window, wife, mother of three, friend, teacher, community-builder, chorister; the first woman – and African-American woman – to join NASA’s Space Flight Research Division in Langley’s Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory as research mathematician, and who was part of the Space Task Group for America’s first multiple missions to space. Human computer. “The girl with the numbers”.

Born in 1918, West Virginia, Katherine Johnson lived in a time and place where social norms were being questioned for both women and Black people. Having been denied an education higher than grade 6 himself, Johnson’s father armed her with many tools. One that would propel her beyond many challenges was the following lesson: “You are no better than anybody, but nobody’s better than you.” Johnson was able to gather the courage and ask many questions that some may not have dared to ask both as a woman and an African-American. One of her favourite question was “Why not?”: why couldn’t she integrate the all-white West Virginia University when the Jim Crow segregation law’s justification, “separate but equal”, could no longer stand? Why couldn’t she do creative and theoretical thinking as a woman instead of being assigned the role of a “human computer”, which was the role a female mathematician could hold at NASA (hence the nickname “computers in skirts”)? Why couldn’t she, as a Black woman, participate at all-male meetings pertaining to her research? contribute to one of the first American manuals about space technology? pen multiple research papers ...? At every turn, Johnson girded herself with her strengthening lesson that she would then impart with her students at every opportunity: “I am no better than anyone, but no one is better than me.”

“I loved numbers and numbers loved me. They followed me everywhere. No matter what I did, I was always finding something to count [...]”. In the end, Johnson got to live her dream as a research mathematician. This choral piece is my reaction to reading her YA-oriented autobiography, Reaching For The Moon. May her story continue to inspire women and men, young and old alike.