Personnel: Mary Lee Kortes (soprano); Napua Davoy (mezzo soprano); Jason White (tenor); Oren Fader (guitar); Soye Kim, Karen Rostron, Mary L. Rowell, Laura Seaton (violin); Ron Lawrence (viola); Erik Friedlander, Mary Wooten (cello); Chris Washburne (trombone); William Sloat, Mat Fieldes (double bass); Kerry Meads, Rory Young (percussion).
Audio Mixer: Rory Young.
Liner Note Author: W.E.B. Dubois.
Actors: Wilbur Pauley; Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.; Diana Emerson; Phil Schaap.
An intriguing take on a lost format. Soldier Stories takes on the classic radio opera with references to contemporary issues built in slyly. The first half of the album consists of A Soldier's Story, a relatively new opera in combination with the Manhattan Chamber Orchestra. The underlying basis of the music is Stravinsky's Histoire du Soldat, but with a substitute text by Kurt Vonnegut based on the story of Eddie Slovik, the only American soldier executed for cowardice since the Civil War. The text was further adapted by arranger/guitarist Dave Soldier to fit the operatic format, and to fit in with the addition of sometimes timely, sometimes playfully ironic newsreels and commercial breaks. While the music veers widely from Stravinsky's score and tends toward a period style in most cases, the instrumentation is held the same as in Stravinsky's creation. In a twist of irony, the overbearing general (though he has a change of heart midway) is played by Vonnegut himself. As counterpoint to the story of one running from a fight, the second half of the album consists of an oratorio rendition of the Apotheosis of John Brown, of one who was running to start a fight. Taken from selections of Frederick Douglass, the ensemble for this one takes a pizzicato form to mimic various Southern sounds. Ultimately here, the question is how far one can promote peace by the use of force. The tone however, is vastly more sober, with more martial chants, and soliloquies. There's an odd juxtaposition of happiness and anger on the album as a whole, but there's an overall theme of the horrors and more so, the insanity of war. At the same time, there's almost a quiet push for the necessity of war by choosing the abolition of slavery and stopping the Nazis as the background for the pieces. Probably not the intended message, but it's hidden in there nonetheless. Interesting musically primarily for taking up the radio opera after a long slumber. ~ Adam Greenberg
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