Rzewski became increas- ingly active in political demonstrations, which escalated into a series of bombings in 1969. Melville pleaded guilty to conspira- cy and bombing the Federal Office Building in Manhattan and was transferred to Attica, where he became one of the leaders of the prison rebellion. He was shot and killed during the retaking of the complex. A book of letters he wrote from prison was posthu- mously published, and Rzewski took his text for Coming Together from Melville’s letter of May 16, 1971 (which was first published separately in a magazine):
I think the combination of age and the greater coming together is responsible for the speed of the passing time. it’s six months now and i can tell you truthfully few periods in my life have passed so quickly. i am in excellent physical and emotional health. there are doubtless subtle surprises ahead but i feel secure and ready. As lovers will contrast their emotions in times of crisis, so am i dealing with my environment. in the indifferent brutality, incessant noise, the experimental chem- istry of food, the ravings of lost hysterical men, i can act with clarity and meaning. i am deliberate – sometimes even cal- culating – seldom employing histrionics except as a test of the reactions of oth- ers. i read much, exercise, talk to guards and inmates, feeling for the inevitable direction of my life.