This 2CD set comes packaged with a 96-page booklet.
Premiered in January 2007 at the legendary La Mama Theater, Concrete is Robert Ashley's newest masterpiece. Though it is not made explicit in any way, the libretto concerns itself with the 'musings' of an old man alone. He thinks about strange questions and even as the questions are asked, they are answered in various forms of sarcasm, indifference, questions about the questions and explanations. In other words, he is talking to himself. The opera takes the form of five 'discussions' about matters he wonders about: why do people keep secrets about themselves? Why do the buildings in the city all line up perfectly (vertically) when the surface of the planet is round? Why is it that so many things that people do as recreation are played counter-clockwise? What has happened to the many women friends ('lovers') he has had and 'left behind' and why were they left behind? And, finally, he ponders the incident in which he recently saw a 'flying carpet' in his bedroom. The five 'internal' discussions alternate with four reminiscences about people the old man has worked with and loved. The reminiscences are short and detailed biographies of seemingly ordinary people who in the past did extraordinary things -- sometimes criminal, sometimes just brave in an unusual way -- but will never be recognized for what they did. The stories will never be known, except to the audience. No one is named. These are secret lives. The musical technique of the opera allows the singers, in ensemble and as soloists, complete freedom with regard to vocal pitch, speech nuance and inflection. The orchestra, recorded on the computer, is made up of some hundreds of composed, short orchestral 'samples' which can be chosen at the moment to make up the accompaniment to the singers' decisions about how to tell the story.