Based on interviews with veterans of five wars conducted by the composer, Soldier Songs traces the path of the soldier through three phases of life - Youth (playing war games) Warrior (time served in the military) and Elder (aged, wise, reflective).
Music has often been used as the artistic and creative vehicle for examining and commenting on social issue - such as war. Such is the case with David Little's "Soldier Songs". Little combines recorded excerpts from interviews with military veterans; particularly those from the Gulf War and Operation Desert Storm; with some songs sung by a solo dramatic baritone (more of a music theatre voice) Little says he was inspired and a bit conflicted about an experience he had in 2004. He went back to his old high school to talk to kids about "life as a composer" and was joined by a classmate talking about his experiences as a soldier. It seems quite listening to the narrative and the songs from the outset that Little's position is indeed conflicted, but leaning on the side of anti-war; questioning involvements, etc. the interview snippets are revealing but the texts to the songs are a bit more revealing and pointed. For example, "I wanna be a 'Real American Hero' ... just like my toy soldiers...killing all the bad guys with the funny names." From an ideological point of view, I needed to really focus on "Soldier's Songs" as a piece of music because my own viewpoint on this topic is most likely not in sync with Mr. Little's. So, the music is interesting; entertaining in spots. The tone and sonic vocabulary is largely tonal but consistently edgy; almost like a very sarcastic and "metal" musical The booklet notes point out that this is more correctly "music theatre" not opera. This is true. The impact is there. Baritone David Moore does an excellent job and the forces of ensemble Newspeak with guest conductor/voice over Todd Reynolds are quite impressive. The booklet production photos that frankly look terrifying with a nearly naked bloodied soldier emerging from a tent that seems to also represent his past and so forth. David Little is a talented guy, having trained with Osvaldo Golijov, Steven Mackey and William Bolcom - all names I respect tremendously. His music is attention getting and propulsive. Cutting edge music theater/opera seems to be his forte and I would like to hear his "Dog Days" before forming anything more than a cursory opinion. This is interesting stuff to be sure and more than a little provocative; just not my thing. Others may think it is excellent.
Submitted on 03/18/13 by Modern Clarinet Guy