Item: 02-0011 [Early Songs]
Early Songs
Compact Disc

This disc has many of Laurie Conrad's earliest songs, sung by soprano Louise McConnell.

Price: $15.00 (plus s/h)

Product Details:
  • Composer: Laurie Conrad
  • Soprano: Louise McConnell (1946-1994)
  • Baritone: Graham Stewart
  • Playing Time: 46 minutes
  • Item #: 02-0011

This disc has many of Laurie Conrad’s earliest songs, sung by soprano Louise McConnell.

Listen to Samples:

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Disc: 1

  1. We Are Playing
  2. Red Sun
  3. Flowers
  4. Feathers, with piano - text by E. Dickinson
  5. Tonight the Moon
  6. Thaw
  7. Prisms
  8. Autumn Song
  9. Leaf Song
  10. Morning - with clarinet
  11. The Glass is Breaking
  12. The Sound of the Flute
  13. Morning - with flute
  14. Feathers, with instruments
  15. And Someone Said
  16. The Visitor - rehearsal w/Graham Stewart
  17. The Sun That Early Rises - text by A. Tobias
  18. Blossoms - text by A. Tobias
  19. The Butterfly, text by Ryota
  20. Stunned
  21. Insects Cry
  22. Far Lightning
  23. Dreams - tonal song
  24. So Many Lovers - tonal song
  25. Words - rehearsal
  26. Words - tonal song
  27. Intro: to Do You Remember - tonal song
  28. Do You Remember - tonal song
Program Notes:

(written by the composer)

This disc has many of Laurie Conrad’s earliest songs, sung by soprano Louise McConnell. Conrad’s works are performed and broadcast all over the world, and her music is known for its innovation, simplicity and sensitivity. Louise McConnell’s voice has a unique and beautiful richness and clarity, and her working range was extraordinary, three full octaves at the time of the Studio N recordings. (Second space bass clef “c” to high ”c” above the treble clef staff.)

All these songs except the tonal tune ”Do You Remember” were taped at David Arnay’s Studio N in Ithaca, NY over two days in January, 1983. Ms. Conrad played the piano as well as the clarinet parts for this recording. Unless noted otherwise, Conrad wrote the text to the song.

This disc is meant to be an archival disc, i.e. a definitive recording with the composer coaching the musicians and also performing.

I found Ms. Conrad to be a composer who has the gift of writing music that is very much homogenized with texts. In other words, she has the keen ability to merge notes to texts that inspired her in the first place making it mean something immediately to the listener.
To appreciate Conrad’s work, one must know her thoughts on music: ”I think of the tonal system, with all its beauty, being more a natural expression of our physical world - it is based on the lower partials of the overtone series. The chromatic notes that appear in the twelve-tone system appear very late in the overtone series, in fact, they are mainly inaudible to humans; there, in my mind, twelve-tone has always represented that which is unseen and unheard.”

There are two groups of songs on this disc of Early Songs by Laurie Conrad (23 tracks, but 22 actual songs forming a cycle) and Tonal Tunes (six tracks, two of which are the actual songs, but include an introduction to one song and a rehearsal to the other.)
What makes the atonal Early Songs so attractive is the names of the individual pieces she gives each of the 22 song tracks, collectively entitled Songs of Will several of which time in at less than one minute. Here, one’s imagination immediately goes to work once the title is known. One track comes in at four minutes, entitled ”Rehearsal of ’The Visitor,’” composed to words by Ryota. We hear the artists tuning up, talking amongst themselves, receiving instruction from the composer, and rehearsing for the ”real” take, which lasts 1’16”. What a novel idea, to allow us to hear a piece of atonal music developing into a final performance . a composer at work with baritone, flute, and cello! Indeed, baritone Graham Stewart’s rending of the ”The Visitor,” provides a mystique and eeriness (with flute and cello) that makes one wonder just who might be this ”visitor.”

Titles within Songs of Will include “We are Playing,” “Red Sun,” “Flowers,” “Feathers, with Piano,” “Feathers with Instruments,” “Tonight the Moon,” “Prisms,” “Stunned,” “Insects Cry,” and “Far Lightning,” to name a few. Poetry for some of the music comes from Emily Dickinson, Arthur Tobias, and Ryota. Within the cycle-unlike cycles we are accustomed to hearing from traditional composers such as Schubert, Schumann, Wolf, etc., who generally wrote for voice and piano-Conrad has chosen to offer songs with piano, cello, flute, clarinet and voice, in myriad combinations. This offers a wide variety in color and expression for the listener. For example, in “Prisms,” one can see a prism in the mind’s eye, with the variegated colors. Conrad’s music captured it perfectly for this listener.

If I felt more at home in Laurie Conrad’s “Tonal Tunes,” I make no apology since my inner being is far more connected to tonal music, particularly from the Baroque through the late Romantic periods. Conrad writes tonally quite beautifully, with singing, attractive melodies and harmonies. The first of the tonal “tunes” is “Dreams,” a title that has inspired many composers, including Richard Wagner. Here the harmony of the vocal line accompanied by the piano was eminently appealing. The song “So Many Lovers,” took me back to the time of Kurt Weill stylistically. The rehearsal of the song “Words,” again gives us a glimpse into the work of a composer, who seeks just the right mood and vocal properties to be rendered by the singer, who sings the song in both, English and French. Again, a delightful melody to the ear. The last song, “Do You Remember,” is prefaced by an introduction taken from a telephone conversation Conrad had with a friend who died from AIDS, making it a fine, heartfelt tribute to her friend. I would love to hear more from Laurie Conrad’s tonal side.

The recording was made in Ithaca, New York in 1983, with one track (“Do You Remember”) having been recorded in 1993. The diction of the singers is impeccable, which it must be in order to fully appreciate the words and meaning of the song. Louise McConnell is a gifted singer whose possesses a full, clear, marvelously expressive and even voice. While the recording may not offer the digital characteristics of today, it is certainly adequate enough to allow us to appreciate the work of Laurie Conrad.
Lance G. Hill
Classical Music Guide

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