'Fire on Pier 32' Soundtrack
Six of the 10 songs featured on this webpage are included in
the Video DVD of the play, 'Fire on Pier 32.' All
10 of the songs—with further enhanced musical arrangements,
instrumentation, and chorus—are performed in the full musical,
In either production, the music and lyrics represent an effort
to make labor songs more contemporary and relevant. Gone is the
simple blue grass-folk style labor songs of the
1930s, and the "Woody Guthrie" sound. Here the emphasis
is on mixing old and new, with definite weight given to the new:
for example, the musical spoken-word style of the
Song of the New Unionism and the song, The Web.
The musical hip-hop piece, Rappin' the Old AFL. The gospel
rock song, The Hairy Arm of Labor. The soulful ballad
solo, Song of Desperation. Or the central theme Song
of Solidarity, performed first slow and deliberative, and then
reprised later in an upbeat tempo. Then there's the sinister and
dark tune, The Song of Treachery, sung by the chorus alone
while performing interpretive hip hop choreography. Not all the
songs are performed in contemporary styles, however. There is the
more traditional sea-shanty song, Lords of the Docks. And
the more standard Government Man and the sarcastic tune
about management games played in collective bargaining called Moving
the Money Around.
Supplementing the ten original scores in both
plays, 'Fire' and '1934,' are recorded selections and passages from
classical music, including Beethoven's 3rd Symphony,
2nd movement, the famous "funeral march" (which was actually
played by the longshore workers' band during the famous funeral
march of July 5, 1934, when longshoremen were killed by police).
Aaron Copland's 'Fanfare for the Common Man' is also aptly featured
as a transition between Acts.
Epic Theater with an Ensemble Cast
In terms of lyrics, all the songs are written more in the tradition
of Epic theater than typical musical theater today,
in which lyrics are more often than not mere flaccid vehicles for
the music itself. There are, of course, musical 'hooks' in all the
songs, sung either by the ensemble cast, the dancers-chorus,
or both. But the lyrics of every song tell a story as well and,
unlike the 'hooks' stanzas sung by ensemble or chorus in the songs,
lyrics in the body of the songs are non-repetitive and serve to
convey the meaning or conscience of the particular scene, or even
the play itself.
The songs are performed by the ensemble cast of actors and by a
three person chorus of young singer-dancers. The two elements, cast
and chorus, often sing in point-counterpoint to each other. In short,
the songs are part of a total picture of sound, movement, and visuals
which are intended to convey a dramatic representation of, for lack
of a better phrase, a classical Greek tragedy in
modern contemporary form.
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