Retrace Our Steps is a secular oratorio in 4 acts (2004) based on texts by Gertrude Stein, Guy Debord and Jenny Bitner. the work explores the relationships between idealism, alienation, and consumerism.
John Schaefer, WNYC/EMusic Review
“Composer Paul Bailey winningly describes his ensemble as an “alt-classical garage band.” With 4 singers (two of whom also speak), strings, winds, piano, electric guitar, vibes, and electric bass, it’s as good a description as any. Retrace Our Steps is his “secular oratorio in 4 acts,” and while the opening notes of Act I and of Act IV sound like they might have come from Arnold Schoenberg’s Transfigured Night, the dominant musical references are to Philip Glass and Michael Nyman. Bailey’s pulsing, tonal chamber music is married to texts by Gertrude Stein, Guy Debord and Jenny Bitner. All four acts are highly rhythmic affairs, but each has its own character: Act I insistent, Act IV a more reflective cousin (a neat trick since the rhythm seems to be the same); Act II with a stinging electric guitar part leading the way; Act III with an elegant combination of vibes and rocking strings and guitar. Rather than providing a narrative in a traditional oratorio sense, Bailey gives us a series of aural snapshots dealing with isolation, alienation, and the irony of modern communication (that when it is so easy to communicate, it is still so hard to communicate effectively). A further irony is that this message is carried by some immediately accessible music; if the message is that instrumental rock and new classical music are not so far apart, that message comes through loud and clear.”
(graphic libretto included in the download)
released January 1, 2008
recorded, edited and mixed by marlon luna and paul bailey (released jan, 2008)
mastered by johnathan marcus (opharion recordings)
nicole baker, mezzo-soprano soloist and speaking parts, karen hogel, soprano, nike st. clair, alto, sean mcdermott, tenor and paul cummings bass
sam formicola and sam fischer violins, victor lawrence, cello, sean ferguson, electric guitar, matt menaged, electric bass, kyoko kamei and carl stronach vibraphone, eric hendrickson, keyboard, scott mcintosh, bass clarinet.
(commissioned by the cerritos center for the performing arts)