Why Performers Wear Black
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Stimulating chamber works that incorporate the composer's interest in setting words, and electronic and digital technology.

Beth Wiemann was raised in Burlington, Vermont and studied composition and clarinet at Oberlin and Princeton University. She teaches composition and clarinet at the University of Maine, and splits her time between Maine and Massachusetts, where her husband, composer David Rakowski, teaches at Brandeis University. On this compilation of works for voice, clarinet, piano and electronics, Beth Wiemann brings together in compelling fashion three important facets of her life as a composer: a fascination with setting words, broad experience as an active performer of her own music and that of her colleagues, and an ongoing interest in the incorporation into her work of electronic and digital technology. Wiemann has been fascinated for years with the already heightened speech of poetry and its translation into the still more heightened speech of song. Among her earliest musical memories is that of hearing original cast recordings of Broadway musicals played in her home as a child. Unlike a number of composers of her generation, the Broadway idiom has exerted a far greater influence on her than later pop and rock styles, though not in an immediately obvious way. While genuinely admiring the craftsmanship of such composers for the stage as Gershwin, Kern, Porter, Rodgers, Bernstein and Sondheim, however, she has not sought to introduce superficial characteristics of their styles into her music in any literal sense. Instead, she has cultivated a harmonically subtle, more chromatic and less obviously tonally grounded pitch language. Her clearest connection with mid-twentieth century American musical theater is in her treatment of the declamation of the text. Consequently, from the songs recorded here to her recent opera, Deeds, her vocal compositions, like the best American popular songs, reflect a penchant for capturing the rhythms and nuances of vernacular speech. In keeping with that tendency, she is often drawn to poetry that is intimate and conversational in tone or concerned with aspects of everyday life. In travels to artists' colonies over the years she has had the good fortune to meet and befriend a number of poets, who often provide her with new material for musical setting. Most of this disc consists of selections from Weimann's collection Simple Songs, a project she began in 1990. Included are the first songs of the set, "No Moon, No Star" and "Night Thought." At the time of their composition, she was also engaged in setting them for women's chorus. She was prompted to make solo settings partly in response to a request from the soprano Karol Bennett for some songs to perform on a concert planned for the fall of 1990. Over time, Wiemann added other songs to the collection as she came across poetry that interested her. The latest song from the collection that appears on this disc is "Seamstress" composed in 2001.
Contents:
Beth Wiemann, composer
Italy
Susan Narucki, soprano, Christopher Oldfather, piano

Beth Wiemann, composer
The Wind Shifts
Susan Narucki, soprano, Christopher Oldfather, piano

Beth Wiemann, composer
A Dutch Courtyard
Susan Narucki, soprano, Christopher Oldfather, piano

Beth Wiemann, composer
Post Office
Susan Narucki, soprano, Christopher Oldfather, piano

Beth Wiemann, composer
Waver
Beth Wiemann, bass clarinet

Beth Wiemann, composer
Museum Piece
Susan Narucki, soprano, Christopher Oldfather, piano

Beth Wiemann, composer
No Moon, No Star
Susan Narucki, soprano, Christopher Oldfather, piano

Beth Wiemann, composer
Poem and Postlude Revisited
Susan Narucki, soprano, Christopher Oldfather, piano

Beth Wiemann, composer
Seamstress
Susan Narucki, soprano, Christopher Oldfather, piano

Beth Wiemann, composer
A Fixture
Susan Narucki, soprano, Beth Wiemann, clarinet

Beth Wiemann, composer
Variations for Two Pianos
Christopher Oldfather, piano

Beth Wiemann, composer
The Act
Susan Narucki, soprano, Christopher Oldfather, piano

Beth Wiemann, composer
Night Thought
Susan Narucki, soprano, Christopher Oldfather, piano

Beth Wiemann, composer
Rustle
Beth Wiemann, bass clarinet

Beth Wiemann, composer
A Soul Selects
Susan Narucki, soprano, Christopher Oldfather, piano

Beth Wiemann, composer
Queen Anne
Susan Narucki, soprano, Christopher Oldfather, piano

Beth Wiemann, composer
Four Ambitions
Susan Narucki, soprano, Christopher Oldfather, piano

Review:
"I suspect many new music collectors will enjoy the high quality of composition, performance, and recording..." (American Record Guide)