Pianist/composer Conrad Tao will release his new album American Rage, on Warner Classics, October 25, 2019. The album features works by Frederic Rzewski, Julia Wolfe, and Aaron Copland, and explores the roots of rebellion from the 1930s Harlan County labor disputes, through the trauma of 9/11, to the deep divisions of the present day.
Bookended by two expansive works by Frederic Rzewski - Which Side Are You On?, based on Florence Reece’s 1931 protest song, and Winnsboro Cotton Mill Blues, an industrial folk song that sardonically reflects on unjust factory working conditions - the album centers on Julia Wolfe's Compassion, written in the wake of 9/11, and Aaron Copland's elegiac Piano Sonata.
Conrad will make his Carnegie Hall recital debut November 20, 2019 and will then perform the album program for his LA Phil recital debut on March 10, 2020. A performance of the American Rage program in a Harlem Crypt was among the New York Times' "Best Performances of 2017."
Says Conrad of the program: “This is a program I have been performing in some form since 2015, and since then my faith has only grown that this music points towards nothing less than a vision of humanity. In Rzewski’s North American Ballads I perceive in the music the possibility that the ruthless chugging of machinery might also be heard as an underlying, unrelenting rhythm of spirit, an expression of humans’ capacity and struggle to come together. I hear Copland's gorgeous, angular sonata as a mournful elegy for all that has been lost, an elegy that also opens up towards the future. And then there’s Julia Wolfe’s Compassion... sometimes the only way to express compassion in its overwhelming fullness is to scream, to make a ruckus, to be rageful. It is scary to take a side, to declare one’s faith in our capacity for solidarity, to commit to building a different world. Compassion is a relentless effort in the face of that fear, compassion is humility, compassion is listening as practice—listening as a deepening that enriches one’s empathy.”
The Rzewski works have taken on a new relevance in recent days, as protests have once again broken out in Harlan County. Mining conglomerate Blackjewel LLC abruptly filed for bankruptcy and left nearly 1,700 miners unemployed and with bounced paychecks, leading the workers to protest by blocking coal trains from carrying coal out of the region. The miners are owed nearly $12 million in wages and $1.2 million in retirement contributions, while Blackjewel’s CEO is currently building a $30 million resort in West Virginia.
1) Frederic Rzewski
Which Side Are You On?
2-4) Aaron Copland 1900-1990
5) Julia Wolfe
6) Frederic Rzewski
Winnsboro Cotton Mill Blues