Neely Bruce

(b. 1944)

mode 20

The Plague


mode 20  Neely BRUCE: The Plague; Eight Ghosts; The Dream of the Other Dreamers – music for voices and electronics performed by Electric Phoenix, with John Marshall (drums) and Ray Russell (guitar). Composer Supervised

In stock

The Plague
Originally issued as a compact disc. Program notes in German, English and French, and texts in English ([22] p.) in container. The 1st work for electronically processed voices, with texts taken from Ghost tantras / Michael McClure; text of the 2nd work from Leaves of grass / Walt Whitman; the 3rd work is a rock cantata, with texts written and compiled by the composer. Electronic Phoenix (Judith Rees, soprano ; Meriel Dickinson (1st-2nd works), Linda Hirst (3rd work), mezzo-soprano ; Daryl Runswick, tenor ; Terry Edwards, bass) ; accompanying ensemble (3rd work). Recorded at October Sound, London, 1984-1989.

1. Eight Ghosts (1989)  23:16

2. The Dream of the Other Dreamers (1983)  7:24

3. The Plague (1983)  42:16

Electric Phoenix, voices & elecronics
Neely Bruce, electric piano
Ray Russell, electric guitar
John Marshall, drums

England’s Electric Phoenix is one of the world’s premier vocal ensembles, experts in contemporary music, extended vocal techniques and pioneers in incorporating electronics with their live performances. This debut recording of music by Neely Bruce combines new music with madrigals, with a dose of rock, rhythm & blues and jazz in a way that is characteristically American, reflecting Bruce’s fascination with American music and literature.

The Plague is a rock opera in which Bruce makes his “…protest against the politics of the 1980s, and the total self-centeredness that spread over the era like a plague.” The instrumentalists include ex-Soft Machine drummer John Marshall. The Dream of the Other Dreamers, to a text by Walt Whitman finds Bruce in a traditional choral style, while Eights Ghosts to a text by Michael McClure utilizes extended techniques and electronics.

Composer supervised recordings.

Released 1991.

Language : English.


“Neely Bruce’s importance in contemporary American music has never been sufficiently recognized. With this release Mode continues to consolidate its position as one of the most important labels specializing in contemporary music: it’s another impeccably produced release. Mode seems unable to go wrong. Bruce’s art ranges from the most difficult and virtuosic contemporary writing to simple tonality, and moves from one idiom to the other effortlessly and convincingly–something hardly anyone can do without sounding forced. Bruce seems equally at home in every style he uses. The Electric Phoenix, if you haven’t heard, are the best at what they do. This is one of the most significant releases to come my way in quite a while.”
—Taylor, American Record Guide

“Teaming the contemporary American composer with one of England’s most accomplished vocal ensembles of modern repertoire, Electric Phoenix, forms this beautiful recording of literature set to music. Eerie, humorous, and rhapsodic at times, Bruce’s interpretive music pairs a wide range of brilliant sonic textures with evocative text, marvelously realized through electronic manipulation.”
—Brooke Wentz, New York Review of Records

“Neely Bruce’s The Plague of 1982, an eclectic rock cantata ostensibly dramatizing in Decameron-style Florence’s 14th century bubonic plague, appears to have been the earliest large-scale musical work about AIDS, pre-Diamanda. The performers and dedicatees are England’s astonishing Electric Phoenix ensemble, a vocal quartet of dynamic personalities–the Manhattan Transfer of the avant-garde. Worth hearing in any repertoire, their uninhibited precision will perk your ears up from the first zinging chord. A MINUS.”
—Kyle Gann, The Village Voice

“The Electric Phoenix is a worthy vehicle for Bruce’s unusual, often fascinating works. The Plague is a 40-minute musical theater piece with texts from Boccaccio, the Bible and Bruce himself, and musical motifs ranging from madrigals to The Rock Island Line. A rock ensemble plays parts of Zappa-like complexity, while the singers tell the story of hysteria that comes with a plague; there’s a surprising amount of humor (mostly black, of course) in the piece. Let’s hope that Bruce gets to record more of his 500 compositions.”
—Bart Grooms, Option Magazine