Soldier Songs Ending Interviews Revealed
One could hear Soldier Songs as a round of poetic gestures. The harsh bass drums that begin the work, for instance, also end it, creating a loop. In another moment, the baritone is consumed by the recurring sound of war’s machinery. Something similar happens during the extended final song, “War After War.” The recorded voices of veterans first heard at the work’s start return as its conclusion, transformed by the experience of the previous 40 minutes.
Though at first the voices can be heard clearly as each veteran makes a kind of opening statement, they gradually begin to overlap and become a sonic fog. Within the "fog of war" a listener hears certain lines more clearly than others. In this, the voices become part of the music itself. When the baritone begins his closing mantra, “king fighting king,” he struggles to be heard above the din, but with each repetition reaches higher above the cloud of memories.
While I still believe that the covering of the interviews in this final movement was the correct poetic choice, I have often wished there was a way for the audience to also hear the interviews on their own. With Soldier Songs now living on the Opera Philadelphia Channel, we have that chance. Working with Johnathan McCullough and Shannon Eblen, we’ve been able to prepare a special cut of “War After War” in which the music has been removed, leaving only the complete interviews. It is our hope that this will not only enhance the audience’s enjoyment of Soldier Songs, but will also enable a deeper understanding of the veterans whose experiences inspired the work.
- David T. Little