By Ace Gangoso
It’s been a while! How are you all? Welcome back to the return of our blog, The Art Song Fix. By now, hopefully you have seen some of the great news we have shared recently, particularly our season announcement. Over the summer, we have not only been planning and rehearsing for these programs, but we have also spent
time in the recording studio. Stay tuned for some exciting details on that very
As we pause to celebrate Labor Day, I am reminded of my duet with Dave, singing
Jake Heggie’s (1961-) setting of the Vachel Lindsay (1879-1931) poem, “Factory
Windows Are Always Broken.” Heggie made a curious conversation out of this
already peculiar text—two voices spar with each other as a raucous piano
accompaniment fuels the fire and drama. Since this performance, I have developed
a slightly different context of what exactly is going on here. If you’re curious about
the contents of my brain I will share, but I decided to leave it out of this particular
post for length. Several existing analyses consider this poem to be a story of
laborers revolting against unfavorable and inhumane conditions, and perhaps
disdain for how the true skill and art of craftspeople were being replaced by
machines and assembly lines. Without being able to be totally certain about his
intentions, Lindsay did live during an important time in the history of labor in our
country, amid unionization efforts, strikes, judicial and legislative actions, and the
implications of a world war.
As modern-day workers, we enjoy certain opportunities, benefits, and protections
that were not always guaranteed, and I realize how easily that can be taken for
granted. Chicago has a notably turbulent history of labor disputes. I am privileged
to be a part of the AGMA (American Guild of Musical Artists) Union, and also have
the honor to serve as a committee member representing choristers at the Chicago
Symphony Orchestra. I will most certainly enjoy this day off to recharge, but I will
aim to keep at the forefront of my mind those who have fought on behalf of all
workers, and ponder how I might continue the labor of advocating for the greater
good. The work must continue!
By Ace Gangoso
A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog post honoring the start of Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month and Chamber Music Month. Today, I offer another blog entry as we find ourselves at month’s end. First, some exciting news: composer Lori Laitman’s newest album was released through Acis Productions this week, which features the quartet with Andrew Rosenblum and Maria Sumareva performing Are Women People? It is available to purchase, stream and download, and you will find more information at https://lorilaitman/hearnow.com.
I mentioned in my last post that kundiman songs of the Philippines are typically written to appear as songs of love and courtship while also carrying subtle undertones of Filipino pride in the face of Spanish colonization. The song “Bayan Ko” (My Country) is a bit of an exception in that its references are anything but subtle. In the opening line, the Philippines is called by name and is then likened to a bird in a cage longing to fly freely.
The song was written by Constancio de Guzman in 1929, over 30 years after the Spanish-American War which marked the end of Spain’s three-century-long occupation of the islands. While this may sound like a great triumph, this was ultimately a shady deal involving a staged “battle” in Manila where the Spanish agreed to transfer power to the US while totally excluding Philippine revolutionaries. Despite uprisings against further occupation, the US asserted and maintained their power by force. The Philippines would finally be granted independence in 1946, but not before going through another period of occupation by Japan during World War II.
The weight of this history still lingers today. You may sense the persistent heaviness present in these very pointed lyrics as well as the music, even after it modulates from D minor to D major. What begins as a lament becomes more and more martial, sounding just how one might expect a patriotic song to sound. Many consider “Bayan Ko” the second national anthem, and it continues to be used as a protest song in rallies and demonstrations. It is a song of immense pain and struggle, but also one of great hope and indomitable spirit.
Mabuhay ang Pilipinas!
Hello, and welcome to the blog! We are Fourth Coast Ensemble, Chicago's classical vocal quartet. Join a different member of our ensemble each week for insights into our favorite art songs, links to archival and new recordings, and reflections on why we value and continue to come back to this musical medium. We proudly present, your weekly #artsongfix!