The Making of Americans

by Anthony Gatto

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    releases August 7, 2020

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Part I: Family living can be existing
Part I: Every one who ever was or is or will be living
Part II: Song for Julia; Each kind of them
Part II:Once an angry man; Repeating is what I am loving
Part II:I like loving, sometimes
Part: III: If any one is sad enough
Part: III: Sharp knives and sharp scissors; Not many are knowing
Part: III: Some were very pleased; When he was a young one
Part: III: Changing is existing
Part: III: He was not one who had been one fighting
Part IV: Family living can go on existing
Part IV: Any one has come to be a dead one
Part IV: Some are not believing; Very many are remembering


‘Soon now there will be a history of every one who ever was or is or will be living.’ (Stein)

Stein’s 1930s recorded readings from the novel perform the role of the Narrator in the opera. She embarks on the romance of recognizing "Every one who ever was or is or will be living"—Track 3. What if there were such a story of utter inclusivity in America? "A history of every kind of men and every kind of women and every way any one can think about them.” If her aspirations were ever fully realized somehow— the universal recognition of every one—there would be a great reckoning to behold.” - Anthony Gatto

Gatto’s musical setting for Stein’s The Making of Americans is appropriately eclectic, embracing diverse sound sources and stylistic approaches as threads in the multi-colored quilt that is America. Propulsive minimalism, ethereal vocals evoking church motets and liturgical singing, stately choral passages in the strings, Ivesian layered harmonic progressions, electronic jump cuts, and glitchy effects combine to create a visceral paean to a troubled history. In this “radio opera” context Gatto’s use of repetitive fragments of text read by Stein points in several directions. It is consistent with traditional operatic librettos, in which arias are often long on repeated text and short on plot development (saved for the recitative). One also hears the influence of text based electro-acoustic works in the vein of Different Trains by Steve Reich, wherein the spoken fragments serve the function both of providing semantic context as well as becoming an additional sonic element in the musical fabric. Lastly, it establishes a multi-dimensional narrative structure where Stein provides framing while the listener is brought in and out of the main story, a chronicle of the trials and tribulations of two American families.

The dynamic first movement serves as a template for Gatto’s eclectic approach. Accented verticalities in the strings function as a call to attention introducing Stein’s quasi-rhetorical questions —“What is a normal American?” Exuberant moto perpetuo material segues into disembodied vocals saturated in delays; a new narrative voice is introduced and is interwoven with choral passages and processed vocals over ethereal sustained chords. A pulsing heartbeat can be heard behind jagged proclamations of the text, “I like loving, sometimes,” and “everyone is a brute to someone,” before Stein reappears briefly and Gatto closes the movement with an expansive, triumphant chorus with a tonal chord progression that is nevertheless misaligned, ecstatically layering different functional harmonies over each other at once. Gatto’s penchant for repetition organized within a collage texture fits Stein’s circular rhetoric while also establishing a heterogeneous chaos that captures something of the promise, and the unruliness, of America.


releases August 7, 2020

Anna Dagmar, voice
Pamela Stein, voice
Rachel Calloway, voice
Elizabeth Munn, voice
David Echelard, voice
Michael Mueller, voice
Bradley Greenwald, voice
JACK Quartet
David Pinkard, conductor

Mixed by Christopher Botta and Anthony Gatto

Mastered by Christopher Botta

Minneapolis recording by Reid Kruger

Excerpted recordings of Gertrude Stein readings from The Making of Americans, and an Interview (1934)

Special thanks to Chris Larson for the album art from his work Crush Collision.

Thanks for generous support from Philip Bither and the Walker Art Center, Yaddo, Fundacion Valparaiso, the Bush Foundation, McKnight Foundation, Jerome Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, New York Foundation for Arts, City University of New York Professional Staff Congress




New Focus Recordings New York, New York

New Focus Recordings is an artist led collective label featuring releases in contemporary music of many stripes, as well as new approaches to older repertoire. The label was founded by guitarist Daniel Lippel (who is the current director), composer engineer Ryan Streber, and composer Peter Gilbert in 2003-4, and features releases from many of new music's most active performers and composers. ... more

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