Anne LeBaron

(b. 1953)

mode 42

The Musical Railism of Anne LeBaron



mode 42 Anne LeBARON: “The Musical Railism of…” including the blues opera The E & O Line–LeBaron (harp), New Music Consort, Theater Chamber Players of the Kennedy Center/Leon Fleisher. Co-production with Tellus.

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The Musical Railism of Anne LeBaron

1. Dog-Gone Cat Act  (1982)

Anne LeBaron, prepared harp

2. Selections from “The E&O Line” (1990)

Libretto by Thulani Davis

Lawrence Hamilton, Orpheus & Men

Louise Cloutier, Eurydice & Vendors

Hugh Panero, Hermes

Frank London, trumpet

Marcus Rojas, tuba

Myra Melford, piano, keyboards

Davey Williams, guitar

Fred Hopkins, bass

Thurman Barker, drums

Anne LeBaron, conductor

3. Waltz for Quintet (1989)

New Music Consort, Claire Heldich, conductor

4. The Sea and the Honeycomb (1979)

Jeanette Walters, soprano

The Theatre Chamber Players of Kennedy Center

Leon Fleisher, conductor

5. I Am An American…My Government Will Reward You¬† (1988, rev. 1994)

Anne LeBaron, electric harp with live electronics

Anne LeBaron’s music us a mixture of elements and influences–a combination of modern compositional techniques with rock, blues and gospel. The many facets of her talent are showcased in The Musical Railism of Anne LeBaron.

The cornerstones of the CD are her two solo performances on harp: Dog-Gone Cat Act for extended techniques on prepared harp, and I Am An American…My Government Will Reward You, a blistering piece for harp, live electronics and tape dedicated to “those on foreign soil who suffered to help Americans escape from hostile territory.” Here the electric harp transforms itself into Hendrix-style electric guitar solos, at times also sounding like a bass guitar, classical guitar and lute (as well as harp!).

Also included are excerpts from her landmark “electronic blues-opera” The E&O Line, based on the Orpheus and Eurydice legend. Set in a 1920s juke-joint in the Mississippi delta to a libretto by noted writer Thulani Davis (who wrote the libretto for X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X), this incredible melding of opera and blues is passionately performed by leading gospel singers along with top New York rock and jazz musicians.

Chamber works include the delightful Waltz for Quintet and song piece The Sea and the Honeycomb conducted by the extraordinary Leon Fleischer.

Bea Weir writes in Contemporary Composers: “Of all the ‘hypenate’ composers at work in contemporary music, Anne LeBaron is one who perhaps most seamlessly joined the two halves of her personality. She has transformed contemporary harp playing into a solo instrument of considerable and sometimes disturbing power. The E&O Line and the prospective double concerto for harp & orchestra will help establish LeBaron as one of the most significant voices of her generation.”


Anne LeBaron
The Musical Railism of Anne LeBaron

Mode 42

That is ‘railism’ – just where the train comes in, I’m not sure. Maybe it’s to do with The E&O Line, LeBaron’s jazzy “electronic blues opera”, a reinterpretation of the Orpheus/Eurydice legend from Eurydice’s point of view. LeBaron¬† plays Orpheus’s instrument, or at least its modern version, and the plangent “Dog-gone Cat Act” is a notated improvisation for prepared harp. The selections from her opera are played by some heavy-duty jazzers including Myra Melford, Fred Hopkins and Thurman Barker (the vocalists weren’t familiar to me). But the most bizarre of an engaging, off-beat set of pieces is I Am An American…My Government Will Reward You, for electric harp, live electronics and tape, inspired by the “blood chit”, a piece of silk cloth carried by US flight crews and to be used to ask for help when shot down, it’s an angry mix of Americana and exotic Orientalism.
— Andy Hamilton, The Wire, April, 1996


Anne LeBaron: (mode 30)
Thulani Davis profile