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Salt and Honeybees

In Review

i 1998

Salt and Honeybees
Anne LeBaron


The Musical Railism of Anne LeBaron

This CD is an exploration of the musical extremes which LeBaron says characterized her upbringing in the south of the United States, filled with, as she says: "Salt and honeybees, seething oceans and Southern trains...delicacy and harshness...rough and uneven congregational singing...intricate bluegrass plucking." This is not a disk for purists, whether they be of the electroacoustic, concert music or blues persuasion, or perhaps only part for each. It is full of surprises, sometimes pleasant, sometimes challenging, always interesting.

Several selections are included from LeBaron's The E. and O Line, an electronic blues opera, which reinterprets the Orpheus/Eurydice legend from Eurydice's point of view. It is set in a 1920s sugarcane-cutting work camp in the Mississippi delta, with a juke joint and abandoned train terminal. While the instrumental parts seem to fit more or less in the blues tradition with intermittent electroacoustic extensions and interventions, the vocals morph constantly between blues melisma, operatic arias, and contemporary extended vocal techniques.

Two works for conventional concert instruments are included: Waltz for Quintet, scored for flute, violin, viola, cello, and piano, is the second movement of the four-movement Telluris Theoria Sacra (Sacred Theory of the Earth). The Sea and the Honeycomb, written for soprano, flute/piccolo, clarinet/bass clarinet, two percussions and piano, is a setting of a poem by Antonio Machado.

LeBaron also includes two works for harp. Doggone Catact is for prepared harp (paper and alligator clips), a transcription of a solo improvisation from 1982. The most challenging, disturbing (and sometimes delicate), and to me the most interesting piece on the CD is I Am An American...My Government Will Reward You. It was originally written in 1988 for amplified harp with realtime electronics, and tape, then revised in 1994 for electric harp. Beginning with a somewhat distorted excerpt of America the Beautiful, it integrates such sounds sources as chopper blades, airplane crashes, trains, synthesized sounds, bell tones, harp and vocal melodies based on hymns, and a short vocal line reciting the words from a blood chit carried by US military flight crews to enlist the aid of foreign nationals. It is dedicated to "the many selfless and compassionate souls on foreign soil, who suffered as a result of helping Americans escape from hostile territory."

Delicacy and harshness, indeed.

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