A pioneer opera composer whose hyper-dense and accelerated scores have been praised for "taking opera into the multimedia age" (The Wire), Robert Ashley cotinues to explore what he began in Dust (2000) and Celestial Excursions (2003) - the speech rhythms and states of mind of seemingly ordinary people. Concrete makes public the ruminations of an old man and his reminiscences of people he has loved and worked with - all of whom have gambled spectacularly with money and with their lives.
Concrete takes an inward look at the human condition, with the performers representing voices that speak as part of an old man's musing. The work is structured around five internal "discussions" in which the singers use a rapid and rhythmically altered conversational style. The opera focuses on ideas that are "right in front of us" but rarely discussed: Why are buildings in a city so perfectly aligned when the earth is round? Why do games that people play so often move counter-clockwise? What makes people keep secrets? Interjected into these examinations are four solo arias in which the performer recounts the life of someone the old man has known. These are the lives of ordinary people who did extraordinary things for which they will never be recognized.
The cast features new music luminaries Sam Ashley, Tom Buckner, Jacqueline Humbert, and Joan la Barbara - who have sung Ashley's work for the last 20 years and are fluent in his unique vocal techniques - and Tom Hamilton, who processes and mixes the voices and orchestra. Unique to this opera, Ashley creates the computer-generated orchestra live, making the performative dialogue new at each performance.