By Austin Franklin, Special to the Sybaritic Singer
“Jeff Young and Paul Pinto, Patriots, Run for Public Office on a Platform of Swift and Righteous Immigration Reform, Lots of Jobs, and a Healthy Environment: an opera by Paul Pinto and Jeffrey Young” is the third album from the duo from thingNY. This half-hour piece of satirical music-theatre takes you on a journey through the political campaigns of Paul Pinto and Jeffrey Young, and attempts to capture the cynical tone that underscores the United States current political system. Created in 2011, “…Patriots, Run for Public Office…” is perhaps one of the most relevant contemporary operas of the 21st Century, and is worth your undivided attention. Since the album’s release on July 4th, 2018 the members of thingNY are preparing for a nearly monthlong, eleven-state tour and are performing at two new and experimental music festivals, Under The Radar Omaha in Omaha, Nebraska, and NMASS (New Media Art and Sound Summit) in Austin, Texas.
The album can be redeemed via bandcamp with a purchase of one of four campaign buttons (two blue, two red, two with both Paul & Jeff, one with just Jeff, one with just Paul) which aid in the physical experience of the piece. Performances both begin and end with Pinto and Young shaking the hands of everyone in the audience and asking them for their vote, and the particular campaign button that an audience member wears will warrant either a positive or negative reaction from the candidate. “The campaign button seemed like a perfect vehicle for delivering this piece”, says Dave Ruder, head of Gold Bolus Recordings and thingNY member, who then begins to describe the difficulty of selling CD’s, tapes, and LP’s, especially at a merchandise table. “The more non-standard items, the better”, says Ruder. The campaign buttons do certainly enhance the live performance of the piece and provide a more intimate relationship between performer and audience member.
The form of the opera is by far the most significant component of this work (structured in seven separate movements), as several of the movements correspond to a particular event in the political campaign process. Both Pinto and Young are soloists in their own aria (Mvt. 4, “Jeff’s Monologue” & Mvt. 7, “Paul’s Monologue”), presented as a manifesto to the American people. Both singers also have their own scena (Mvt. 3 & 6) which precedes each particular candidate’s aria, and is a literal Q&A between a panel and each candidate. These movements are saturated with excessively elaborate language, such as the candidates avoiding answering a difficult question in a concise manner, getting off topic completely, or talking over one another.
The monologues are particularly parodic in that each candidate exhibits an amplified representation of their political platforms, with clichés of freedom and enterprise, speaking in metaphors, rhymes, and even gibberish. In the final movement, “Paul’s Monologue”:
…Who Muscles the righteous out of their homes! And by homes I mean profession, and by profession of course I mean the act of transplantation, exportation, elevation, reforestation, urbanization, overpopulation, standard-deviation, incapacitation committed by the Haitians and Croatians, who invade in this gas-station nation…
These movements rely heavily upon the spoken word, but this is balanced by the remaining three sung movements. They serve to provide a pleasant opposition to the recitatives at large and do not highlight the parody with the same intensity that the others do.
Aside from the vocals, the instrumentation for “…Patriots, Run for Public Office…” consists of violin, percussion, a turntable, samples, and lots of cardboard boxes. The violin and vibraphone are the predominant accompanying instruments, with the percussion, turntable, samples, and boxes contributing to the operas overall soundscape. The delicate and sometimes jarring musical language of the opera is influenced almost exclusively by the text, and is consistently used as an emotional aid for which the candidates can speak or sing over. At times, only a pizzicato violin is playing (“Q&A 1″), while at others the vibraphone, turntable, and samples are all incorporated into the mix (“Jeff’s Monologue”). This sensitivity and attention to detail is what allows Pinto and Young to seamlessly transition from soft, texturally thin sections to impulsive, highly-syncopated climaxes several times throughout a few short minutes of music. A perfect example of this is in the 5th movement, “Song”, in which the entirety of the movement is built using three similar phrases that each begin quietly with the violin and vibraphone and build to a rhythmic interruption incorporating various electronic sounds and extended techniques, all in the span of just two and a half minutes.
The latest album from thingNY, “Jeff Young and Paul Pinto, Patriots, Run for Public Office on a Platform of Swift and Righteous Immigration Reform, Lots of Jobs, and a Healthy Environment: an opera by Paul Pinto and Jeffrey Young”, is an album that has potential appeals beyond those of just the new and experimental music community. It is more than just an opera about politics, it is about humanity and our future world. Pinto and Young, along with the other members of thingNY, have combined the artistic, historic, and economic to create a work that truly speaks (or sings) to us all.
This album is available on bandcamp
Patriots album + set of 4 campaign buttons
Four styles, these wearable buttons represents your patriotism. And, should they festoon your suit’s lapel, your ten-gallon hat, or your eco-friendly tote, brethren, sisthren and othren across, atop, and beyond this great nation and its walls will hold no doubts about how your principles perch, where your allegiance lays, or in what manner your sense of fashion struts.
released July 4, 2018
Written and performed by Paul Pinto and Jeffrey Young
Recording engineer: Zach Herchen
Mixed by Zach Herchen
Mastered by Caley Monohan-Ward
Austin Franklin is an emerging composer from Baton Rouge, LA where he is pursuing a master’s degree in music composition at LSU under Dinos Constantinides. His primary area of interest pertains to the development of hierarchical pitch structures and complex patterns in music. Austin’s works have been performed throughout United States and Greece. He has won several awards and commissions, such as the Sound/Sight Art Collaboration and the First Annual LSU Composers Competition, and has several pieces published through C-Alan Publications.