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Wayne Horvitz's close up portrair

During his 2002 residenct at Jack Straw Cultural Center, Wayne Horvitz composed Smokestrack Arias, a song cycle for soprano voice, piano and electronics, with lyrics by Robin Holcomb, through the national Meet the Composer program.

The award-winning Seattle producer, musician, and composer was commissioned by Jack Straw Cultural Center through Meet The Composer’s Commissioning Music/USA program to compose the piece which was inspired by the 1916 labor uprising and resultant deaths, now known as the Everett Massacre. Each song in Smokestrack Arias assumes the perspective of a different woman affected by the uprising and the deaths of the slain protesters, giving a personal account of a seminal event in the history of the labor movement in the Pacific Northwest.

“I have had three fundamental motivations for creating Smokestack Arias.” Says Horvitz, “The initial inspiration was my longstanding interest in the history of the American labor movement, especially in the West, as it moved from “pioneer” to “industrialized”. Secondly, my ongoing concern – along with many, many other people – of the demise of organized labor since the 1970’s, and the increasing centralization of money, otherwise known as power, in the hands of the few at the expense of the many. Finally, working with these collaborators was immensely appealing to me. With the piece being solely from the point of view of female characters, it al- lows me to collaborate with four of my favorite women artists on the planet, so I confess to a small amount of selfish motivation in that regard. Smokestack Arias is a work of the imagination, grounded in historical fact.”

Smokestack Arias premiered at ACT – A Contemporary Theatre’s Central Heating Lab. Composed by Horvitz with text by Robin Holcomb, the performances took place in collaboration with Cristina Valdes (piano) and Maria Mannisto (soprano). Choreographer and theatre artist Dayna Hanson directed the production and assisted Mr. Horvitz in creating the overall structure of the piece.

ACT Program Catalogue 

This project was made possible by generous support from the Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust, the Ford Foundation, the Francis Goelet Charitable Lead Trusts, New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, New York State Council on the Arts, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and the Helen F. Whitaker Fund.

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