An American Soldier's Tale/ A Fiddler's Tale
by Igor Stravinsky / Wynton Marsalis
Libretto by Kurt Vonnegut / Stanley Crouch, adapted by Wynton Marsalis
This double-bill boasts fact and fable - sinister parables brimming with foxtrots, rags, marches and a healthy dose of Dixieland. In Marsalis’ Faustian allegory, a young, upstart musician strikes a devilish deal, biting off more than she can chew... Kurt Vonnegut audaciously reimagines Stravinsky’s The Soldier’s Tale into a vexing story of American wartime deserters: 40,000 fled the front lines of WWII, one was executed - this is his story.
Igor Fyodorovitch Stravinsky was a composer of modern classical music. He wrote works in the neo-classical and serialist styles, but he is best known for two works from his earlier, Russian period: The Rite of Spring and The Firebird. For some, these ballets practically reinvented the genre. Stravinsky also wrote in a broad spectrum of ensemble combinations and classical forms. His oeuvre includes everything from symphonies to piano miniatures.
Stravinsky also achieved fame as a pianist and conductor, often at the premieres of his own works. He was also a writer. With the help of his protégé Robert Craft, who helped with the composer's English grammar, Stravinsky composed a theoretic work entitled Poetics of Music. In it, he famously claimed that music was incapable of 'expressing anything but itself'. Craft also transcribed several interviews with the composer, which were published as Conversations with Stravinsky.
A quintessentially cosmopolitan Russian, Stravinsky was one of the most authoritative composers in 20th Century music, both in the West and in his native land. He was named by Time Magazine as one of the most influential people of the century.
Wynton Marsalis was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, on October 18, 1961, to Ellis and Dolores Marsalis, the second of six sons. At an early age he exhibited a superior aptitude for music and a desire to participate in American culture. At age eight Marsalis performed traditional New Orleans music in the Fairview Baptist Church band led by legendary banjoist Danny Barker, and at 14 he performed with the New Orleans Philharmonic. During high school Marsalis performed with the New Orleans Symphony Brass Quintet, New Orleans Community Concert Band, New Orleans Youth Orchestra, New Orleans Symphony, various jazz bands and the popular local funk band, the Creators.
At age 17 Marsalis became the youngest musician ever to be admitted to Tanglewood’s Berkshire Music Center. Despite his youth, he was awarded the school’s prestigious Harvey Shapiro Award for outstanding brass student. Marsalis moved to New York City to attend Juilliard in 1979. When he began to pick up gigs around town, the grapevine began to buzz. In 1980 Marsalis seized the opportunity to join the Jazz Messengers to study under master drummer and bandleader Art Blakey. It was from Blakey that Marsalis acquired his concept for band leading and for bringing intensity to each and every performance. In the years to follow Marsalis performed with Sarah Vaughan, Dizzy Gillespie, Sweets Edison, Clark Terry, Sonny Rollins, Ron Carter, Herbie Hancock, Tony Williams and countless other jazz legends.
Marsalis assembled his own band in 1981 and hit the road, performing over 120 concerts every year for 15 consecutive years. With the power of his superior musicianship, the infectious sound of his swinging bands and an exhaustive series of performances and music workshops, Marsalis rekindled widespread interest in jazz throughout the world. He embraced the jazz lineage to garner recognition for the older generation of overlooked jazz musicians and prompted the re-issue of jazz catalogs by record companies worldwide. He also inspired a renaissance that attracted a new generation of fine young talent to jazz. A look at the more distinguished jazz musicians of today reveals numerous students of Marsalis’ workshops: James Carter, Christian McBride, Roy Hargrove, Harry Connick Jr., Nicholas Payton, Eric Reed and Eric Lewis, to name a few.
Wynton Marsalis is a prolific and inventive composer. The dance community embraced his inventiveness by awarding him with commissions to create new music for Garth Fagan (Citi Movement-Griot New York), Peter Martins at the New York City Ballet (Jazz: Six Syncopated Movements and Them Twos), Twyla Tharp with the American Ballet Theatre (Jump Start), Judith Jamison at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre (Sweet Release and Here…Now), and Savion Glover (Petite Suite and Spaces). Marsalis collaborated with the Lincoln Center Chamber Music Society in 1995 to compose the string quartet At The Octoroon Balls, and again in 1998 to create a response to Stravinsky’s A Soldier’s Tale with his composition A Fiddler’s Tale.
With Citi Movement, In This House On This Morning and Blood On The Fields, Marsalis invented a fresh conception for extended form compositions. His inventive interplay with melody, harmony and rhythm, along with his lyrical voicing and tonal coloring assert new possibilities for the jazz ensemble. In his dramatic oratorio Blood On The Fields, he draws upon the blues, work songs, chants, call and response, spirituals, New Orleans jazz, Ellingtonesque orchestral arrangements and Afro-Caribbean rhythms; and he uses Greek chorus-style recitations to move the work along. The New York Times Magazine said the work “marked the symbolic moment when the full heritage of the line, Ellington through Mingus, was extended into the present.” The San Francisco Examiner stated, “Marsalis’ orchestral arrangements are magnificent. Duke Ellington’s shadings and themes come and go but Marsalis’ free use of dissonance, counter rhythms and polyphonics is way ahead of Ellington’s mid-century era.”
Marsalis extended his achievements in Blood On The Fields with All Rise, an epic composition for big band, gospel choir, and symphony orchestra –- a classic work of high art -– which was performed by the New York Philharmonic under the baton of Kurt Masur along with the Morgan State University Choir and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra (December 1999).
In the fall of 2009 the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra premiered Marsalis’ composition Blues Symphony. By infusing blues and ragtime rhythms with symphonic orchestrations he creates a fresh type of enjoyment of classical repertoire. Employing complex layers of collective improvisation, Marsalis further expanded his repertoire for symphony orchestra with Swing Symphony, premiered by the renowned Berlin Philharmonic in June 2010, creating new possibilities for audiences to experience a symphony orchestra swing. The New York Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Barbican have all signed on to perform Swing Symphony.
Kurt Vonnegut was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, on November 11, 1922. Vonnegut emerged as a novelist and essayist in the 1960s, penning the classics Cat's Cradle, Slaughterhouse-Five and Breakfast of Champions before 1980. He is known for his satirical literary style, as well as the science fiction elements in much of his work. After studying at Cornell University, Kurt Vonnegut enlisted in the U.S. Army. He was sent by the army to what is now Carnegie Mellon University to study engineering in 1943. The next year, he served in Europe and fought in the Battle of the Bulge. After this battle, Vonnegut was captured and became a prisoner of war. He was in Dresden, Germany, during the Allied firebombing of the city, and saw the complete devastation caused by it. Vonnegut himself only escaped harm because he, along with other POWs, was working in an underground meat locker making vitamins.
Soon after his return from the war, Kurt Vonnegut married his high school girlfriend, Jane Marie Cox. The couple had three children. He worked several jobs before his writing career took off, including newspaper reporter, teacher, and public relations employee for General Electric. The Vonneguts also adopted his sister's three children after her death in 1958. Showing his talent for satire, his first novel, Player Piano, took on corporate culture and was published in 1952. More novels followed, including The Sirens of Titan (1959), Mother Night (1961), and Cat's Cradle (1963). War remained a recurring element in his work and one of his best-known works, Slaughterhouse-Five, draws some of its dramatic power from his own experiences. The narrator, Billy Pilgrim, is a young soldier who becomes a prisoner of war and works in an underground meat locker, not unlike Vonnegut, but with a notable exception. Pilgrim begins to experience his life out of sequence and revisits different times repeatedly. He also has encounters with the Tralfamadorians. This exploration of the human condition mixed with the fantastical struck a cord with readers, giving Vonnegut his first best-selling novel.
Emerging a new literary voice, Kurt Vonnegut became known for his unusual writing style—long sentences and little punctuation—as well as his humanist point of view.
He continued writing short stories and novels, including Breakfast of Champions (1973), Jailbird (1979), and Deadeye Dick (1982). Vonnegut even made himself the subject of Palm Sunday: An Autobiographical Collage (1981).
Despite his success, Kurt Vonnegut wrestled with his own personal demons. Having struggled with depression on and off for years, he attempted to take his own life in 1984. Whatever challenges he faced personally, Vonnegut became a literary icon with a devoted following. He counted writers such as Joseph Heller, another WWII veteran, as his friends. His last novel was Timequake (1997), which became a best seller despite receiving mixed reviews. Kurt Vonnegut chose to spend his later years working on nonfiction. His last book was A Man Without a Country, a collection of biographical essays. In it, he expressed his views on politics and art as well as shed more light on his own life.
Kurt Vonnegut died on April 11, 2007, at the age of 84, as a result of head injuries sustained in a fall at his home in New York a few weeks earlier. He was survived by his second wife, photographer Jill Krementz, their adopted daughter, Lily, and six children from his first marriage.
vonnegut's "Soldier's tale"
Vonnegut's 1993 reimagined version of Stravinsky's L'Histoire du Soldat is a dramatic account of the case of Private Eddie Slovik, the first American soldier executed for desertion since the Civil War, in France in 1945. (This is one of the few classical recordings to come with a parental advisory warning.) The narration has four characters: Private Slovik, the General, the M.P., and Caroline the Red Cross nurse, who act out and describe the events leading up to Slovik's death. Vonnegut weaves his new tale into the existing music so naturally and brilliantly that it's hard to believe he hadn't actively collaborated with the composer on it. The historical specificity and visceral urgency of his rhymed text make the music seem even more bitterly sardonic than the original. Any fan of Stravinsky is likely to be intrigued by this novel realization of his classic and may even be swept away by its power.
An American Soldier's Tale
The story of Eddie Slovik. Over a six month period he embezzled $59.50 from a drug store and went to prison where no one visited him. This made him ineligible for military service during World War II. But, by the time he was 22, married, and had straightened his life out, the Army “overlooked” his early past and drafted him.
In less than a year, he was in the front lines in one of the most vicious confrontations of the conflict. He deserted, surrendered to authorities, was tried and sentenced to death. There were 40,000 other deserters during the war; 49 were sentenced to death. Only Slovik was executed (under Dwight Eisenhower’s orders).
A Fiddler's Tale
A woman jazz fiddle player is seduced into commercialism by the Devil, a record producer named Bubba Z. Beals. The Fiddler 's life becomes miserable without her true creativity. A man whose love can redeem her, is thrown into a coma by Bubba. The Fiddler can save him -- and open the possibility of her own redemption -- only by breaking the Devil's commercial hold and creating music of genuine beauty in a pivotal series of three dances.