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the psychology of nations, or what are you looking at

Written during the restless, confused time just after the First World War, The Psychology of Nations is the final piece in Geography & Plays (1922). It begins with a post-war celebration in Paris, then describes a little boy who participates, somehow, in a presidential election. Stein’s language runs through a variety of historical scenes in an unusually breathless fashion, ending quite powerfully with these lines: “I speak now of a man who is not a bother. How can he not bother. He is elected by me. When this you see remember me.”

The final act of our chamber opera SIX.TWENTY.OUTRAGEOUS, we interpreted this play (in the American context of November 2016) as a presidential election-night party gone horribly wrong. Responding to the increasingly bad news announced by WE (the Radio Voice), V, ME, and THREE offer different reactions: anger, panic, denial. The play concludes with a deranged radio and a lamentation.

The recording is 45 minutes.

listen read the play

credits:

  • Composer: Daniel Thomas Davis
  • Libretto: Adam Frank with the composer
  • Director/Designer: Doug Fitch
  • Musical Director: David Bloom
  • Sound Engineer: Ben Manley
  • Jacqueline Horner-Kwiatek as V
  • Andrew Fuchs as ME
  • Ariadne Greif as THREE
  • Joseph Atkins as WE
  • Momenta Quartet:
    Emilie-Anne Gendron, violin
    Alex Shiozaki, violin
    Stephanie Griffin, viola
    Michael Haas, cello
  • Dimitri Dover, piano
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  • The performance was made possible by a grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (File 435-2013-1684).
    Photo courtesy Steven Pisano Photography.

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