Rita Dove & Amnon Wolman

Thomas and Beulah


Innova 559


Disc A

1. The Event, Variation on Pain                                                          7:03

2. Jiving, Straw Hat, Courtship                                                                      7:44

3. The Zeppelin Factory, Under the Viaduct 1932, Compendium                  5:57

4. Aircraft, One Volume Missing, the Charm                                     5:12

5. Gospel, Roast Possum, The Stroke                                                            9:31

6. Thomas at the Wheel                                                                       5:46

7. Taking in Wash, Magic                                                                   7:25

8. Courtship Diligence, Promises, Dusting                                         5:42

9. Weathering Out, Mothering, Daystar                                                          10:30

                                                                                                total: 64:53

Disc B

1. The Great Palaces of Versailles, Sunday Greens, Wingfoot Lake              9:04

2. Company, The Oriental Ballerina                                                    10:41


Cynthia Harmon, Soprano

Ursula Oppens, Piano

Amnon Wolman, Electronics



Enhanced CD portion of Disc B includes: performance video,

poems, production photos, reviews, links, and artist bios.

            Place Disc B in your computer. You will need: 

Shockwave 8.5 (installer is on disc), web browser, Internet

connection, 40+MB RAM, Real Player/Quicktime/Windows Media

Player.  Open “Open.htm” first.  Mac users need to wait while

program loads.


• This disc contains Macromedia Shockwave™ Player software by Macromedia, Inc.,

Copyright © 1995-2000 Macromedia, Inc. All rights reserved.

Macromedia and Shockwave are trademarks of Macromedia, Inc.

• innova is supported by the National Endowment for the Arts


            Thomas and Beulah  is a theater song-cycle utilizing Rita Dove‘s book of poetry by the same name that was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1987. This is a collection of forty-four poems recounting the lives of her grandparents, African-Americans who met and resided in Akron Ohio, beginning at the outset of this century. It is scored for a singer, a pianist, live electronics, and lights. The most significant new element about this piece is that the musical drama is introduced in an exceptional framework engaging the spectators' perception of space as part of the artistic statement.

            The singer recites and sings the songs accompanied by the pianist and the electronics. The narrative of the tale is imparted as it progresses from one poem to the next. The pianist performs on a Yamaha Disklavier, which is a ordinary piano with the farther capacity of transmitting pitch, velocity, and controller data via MIDI to a computer. The electronic sounds put to use in the piece are all be based on the recitation of the poetry by Rita Dove herself. These recordings were mutated using diverse signal processing tools and saved in various sound-files (AIFF) which were triggered by the pianist during the performance.  Furthermore all of the music vocalized by the singer is recorded and modified, in real-time, using the instantaneous signal processing tools.

            The piece is presented in-the-round. The singer and piano are placed in the center. The listeners’ area is partitioned into six equal parts separated by unoccupied gaps. Subsequent to the onset of the show, six scrims are positioned in these gaps separating the zones or sections from each other. Lights are arranged encircling the patron. Some instruments are focused on the scrims and others on the audience sitting within a particular zone. This situation enables to cut off a specific section from others when the lights are focused on the scrims and on the spectators positioned within that area in an attractive manner generating games of lights and shadows.

            This arrangement provides the means for the transformation of the performance space as the piece proceeds. For example, the opening scene has the lights focused solely on the pianist and the singer, consequently offering a indisputable sensation of a primary production that all of the spectators see contemporaneously. In some other part of the show the lights are focused merely in a solitary section of the audience, this illumination includes lights that are aimed at the scrims of this segment from within, making the scrims opaque. In this last mentioned illustration the persons placed in that section observe that they are in a modest chamber observing an intimate show, and the people sitting in other divisions witness that section of the audience as the scenery in front of which the singer and the pianist are performing. The dispersion of sounds onto the loud speakers pursues a similar pattern. Therefore when the lights are accenting a precise area of the performance space, the sounds appear to arrive from an identical bearing.