On Tuesday, February 26, the debut recording of David T. Little's "sharp, elegantly bristling" opera-theatre piece, Soldier Songs (2006), which recently completed a wildly successful NYC premiere run on the inaugural PROTOTYPE festival, is released on audio CD from Innova Recordings, produced by Lawson White. The recording receives its digital release on iTunes and Amazon today, February 5, 2013.
The hour-long eleven-song cycle, including libretto based on Little's interviews with veterans of five U.S. wars, follows the perspective of the title "Soldier" through three stages of life: Child (war-play and adolescent video games), Warrior (the confusion and terror of actual combat), and Elder (life after war).
For this "all-star" Innova Recordings release, Todd Reynolds conducts leading baritone David Adam Moore and David T. Little's "punk-classical" ensemble Newspeak, featuring Caleb Burhans, violin, voice; James Johnston, piano, toy piano, synthesizer, voice; Mellissa Hughes, voice; David T. Little, drums, junk metal, electronics, voice; Eileen Mack, clarinets, voice; Brian Snow, cello, voice; Peter Wise, vibraphone, percussion, voice. The disc also features special guest Kelli Kathman (piccolo, flutes, voice).
Soldier Songs is available for physical release on Tuesday, February 26, and for digital release via Amazon and iTunes today, February 5. For more, visit: http://www.innova.mu/albums/david-t-little/soldier-songs
SOLDIER SONGS Track List:
Part One: Child
2. I. Real American Heroes (Age 6-12)
3. II. Boom! Bang! Dead! (Rated "T" for Teen) (Age 13-17)
4. III. Counting The Days (for Gene Little) (Age 18-21)
Part Two: Warrior
5. IV. Still Life with Tank and iPod (Age 22-24)
6. V. Old Friends with Large Weapons (for Michael Lear) (Age 25-27)
7. VI. Hollywood Ending (for Justen Bennett) (Age 28-29)
8. VII. Steel Rain (Age 30-31)
Part Three: Elder
9. Introduction / VIII. Hunting Emmanuel Goldstein (Age 32-42) / IX. Every Town has a Wall (Age 43-52)
10. X. Two Marines (Age 52-57)
11. XI. War After War (Age 58-66)
12. Coda: The Closed Mouth Speaks
Duration: 53 minutes
Soldier Songs is based on and features interviews with the following veterans: Justen Bennett (US Army), Amber Ferenz (US Army), Richard Girardin (US Marine Corps), Gene Little (US Army), Joseph W. Little (US Army), Eugene F. Woznicki (US Air Force). This recording is dedicated to them. Says Little:
"I wrote Soldier Songs to try to figure things out. In 2004 I was invited by my former high school to speak with students about my life as a composer. Following my talk was my old friend, Justen Bennett, who was asked to talk about being a soldier. Justen had just returned from Iraq where, among other things, he had been a field medic, and had been among those who stormed Saddam Hussein's palace. I felt a little silly.
"Exiting the auditorium I saw a display case, which I remembered as having been used to celebrate student achievements: a victory for the football team, or the marching band, or photos from the musical that had happened the previous week. Now it was full of photos of alumni currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, driving tanks and carrying machine guns. Here, in the same case where the prom pictures used to go.
"I remembered back to my days with them in class arguing about the ethics of Vietnam, or even Operation Desert Storm. I remembered my attitude at the time: that war was always wrong, and that those who signed up to fight it were always fools. And yet, here were my friends‚ smart kids all‚ now in the desert defusing land mines.
"I then thought of my own family. Although we are not an intensely military family today, my generation is the first in nearly a century to not have a member in the service. My uncles were in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, and my grandfathers were in World War II, in Europe. Cracks began to form in my absolutist position, and questions began to arise. To find my own answers, I called veterans I knew and asked them to speak with me about their experience. Everyone I asked said yes. It was from their stories that this piece began to emerge. What struck me most was that for almost all of them, this was the first time they had ever talked about their experience, even though for some they had left active duty nearly 40 years ago. This became central to the piece; what, for me, this piece is about: the impossibility of the telling.
"I never meant for this piece to prove a point, or even to have any kind of 'message' to deliver. Rather, it is presented for contemplation. I have selected and edited these interviews more as a way of sharing than as a way of convincing. By conducting these interviews, and writing this piece, I gained an awareness of the complexity and difficulty of the soldier's situation, and gained empathy and compassion for the men and women who have experienced the one-way door of combat; where once you pass through, you never fully come back."
Soldier Songs was commissioned by the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, which premiered the original version of the work in 2006, conducted by Brett Mitchell and directed by Kevin Noe. The version of the work presented on this recording was completed for the Beth Morrison Projects (BMP) production, and premiered at the International Festival of Arts and Ideas in New Haven in the summer of 2011, with David Adam Moore and Newspeak conducted by Todd Reynolds and directed by Yuval Sharon. The New York premiere of this production was presented as part of HERE and BMP's inaugural PROTOTYPE festival (Jan. 9-18, 2013) in partnership with the Michael Schimmel Center for the Arts at Pace University. (For PROTOTYPE, baritone Christopher Burchett sang the role of the Soldier.)
David T. Little's "sharp, elegantly bristling" music draws upon his experience as a rock drummer, fluidly fusing classical and popular idioms to powerful effect. His work often undertakes political and existential themes and has been described by The New York Times as "dramatically wild...rustling, raunchy and eclectic," showing "real imagination." New Yorker critic Alex Ross declared himself "completely gripped" by Little's early work and Russell Platt has since confirmed Little's status as "one of the most imaginative young composers on the music-theatre scene" and "a classical composer with a surprisingly broad range," adding: "Most young composers put the influences of rock, post-minimalism, and Benjamin Britten into a cocktail shaker and hope for the best; Little channels them into a seamless flow that fosters structural cohesion and expressive impact."