G. Lewis: Afterword - An Opera / Lamarre, Brown, Otis, International Contemporary Ensemble

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International Contemporary Ensemble releases Afterword: An Opera in Two Acts by George Lewis on its Tundra Records imprint. Lewis’s first opera, Afterword, premiered in 2015 at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. The opera was created in conjunction with the exhibition The Freedom Principle: Experiments in Art and Music, 1965 to Now, as part of the 50th anniversary commemorations of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), the Chicago-born and now internationally acclaimed African American collective whose members have explored an unprecedentedly wide range of new and influential ideas in new music.


George Lewis’s recent chamber and orchestral scores have been action-packed thrill rides, full of lovingly crafted dissonances and exciting collisions of rhythmic contour. But his foray into opera, “Afterword: An Opera in Two Acts,” is less traditionally dramatic. That’s intentional.

In the liner notes for this finely produced live recording, Lewis – a scholar, computer music specialist and trombonist – talks about the conceptual influence of Anthony Braxton’s operas. In those works, singers are not bound to representations of a single character from one act to the next. And so it is in “Afterword,” in which three singers rotate roles to depict the formation and development of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, a pathbreaking experimental music community.

Lewis, a veteran of the artistic network, wrote a celebrated historical tome on the organization, and his libretto for “Afterword” freely adapts that text. The composer describes the result as a Bildungsoper, a “a coming-of-age opera of ideas.” As such, historical figures represented in his text dissolve into a collective voice. The result may stint on narrative continuity, but Lewis also offers stretches of poetic meditation. One such passage dramatizes an early meeting in which association figures debate a tenet of the A.A.C.M.’s artistic mission – specifically, all original music, all the time.

You may find yourself wanting to read along with the stream-of-collective-consciousness libretto, which is helpfully included with digital and physical purchases. Behind the vocal lines you can hear Lewis’s whirling, distinct approach to instrumental variation, even if his typical rate of change has been slowed a bit to allow for conversational English to flourish. And it does flourish, among the trio of vocal soloists, most prominently in an extraordinary performance by the contralto Gwendolyn Brown.

-- The New York Times

Product Description:

  • Release Date: October 06, 2023

  • Catalog Number: TUN015

  • UPC: 690277901362

  • Label: Tundra

  • Number of Discs: 2

  • Period: Contemporary

  • Composer: George Lewis

  • Conductor: David Fulmer

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: International Contemporary Ensemble

  • Performer: Gwendolyn Brown, Joelle Lamarre, Julian Terrell Otis


  1. Afterword, An Opera in Two Acts

    Composer: George E. Lewis

    Ensemble: International Contemporary Ensemble

    Performer: Julian Terrell Otis (Tenor), Gwendolyn Brown (Contralto), Joelle Lamarr (Soprano)

    Conductor: David Fulmer