Man Up / Man Down

review

The titular work, Robert Maggio‘s Man Up / Man Down, is a large-scale, 30-minute exploration of the various perspectives of contemporary American masculinity. The declarative prosody is reminiscent of modern musical theatre, allowing the listener to understand Maggio’s often uncomfortable sourced text. Presented in eleven movements, with several being extremely short, the musical success of Man Up / Man Down derives from Maggio’s masterful command over the voicing within his vocal ensemble writing and implementation of cyclical motives, relating emotional themes across movements. He alludes to a wide variety of classical and popular musical idioms, using rapid style changes to emphasize shifts in demeanor. Constellation navigates these styles with ease, perfectly adapting on a whim.

There are multiple narratives told throughout Man Up / Man Down, starting with the tragic descent into neo-Nazism of Skate Park Guy: a loner who by the end of the work is completely immersed into a white supremacy group. Maggio, with text for these sections by sociologist Michael Kimmel, uncannily presents an all too often truthful tale of learned bigotry and how these groups prey on isolated individuals. Maggio connects each of the four “Skate Park Guy” movements with an ominous introduction and trudging, monotonous vocal lines.

Fittingly, the final movement, “West Point”, collects previous musical material and swells to an emotional apex. The movement intersperses more of Kimmel’s text with the traditional West Point Alma Mater. Maggio’s use of postmodern collage comes to full fruition, expertly alternating from dense, four-part chorale harmony to contemporary pandiatonicism and post-minimalist overlapping of text. The culminating line of text, relaying from whom the cadets have learned toxic definitions of masculinity, amplifies in intensity and impact as Maggio adds layer after layer, ending with an almost screaming statement of “I should be…”

—brutalnewmusic.com, October 18, 2023

notes

Constellation has been in existence since 2013 and yet, 10 years later, this is our first album to be released. Part of that was simply our longstanding focus on “Music & Brotherhood” that began with Saturday morning rehearsals followed by a “cheers!” in Evanston, IL. Another part of that has been the uphill battle to create, sustain, and grow an arts organization in America today.

But the biggest focus for me has always been the “why” of all of our performances. What place does another vocal ensemble have in the recorded history of music to release albums unless it has something to say? With the creation of Man Up / Man Down, I knew we had something important to add to the conversation.

The album features Robert Maggio’s large-scale work of the same name, Man Up / Man Down, which explores masculinity in America through multiple lenses, including anonymously sourced responses from prompts about pride, parenting, our past, and more. The album begins with Jeffrey Derus’ HOME, depicting a mother rocking her child to sleep and the world that constantly tries to invade our innermost peace. It ends with david lang’s manifesto and after a journey of such intense introspection regarding societal norms of masculinity, simply wanting “to be with someone who gets me” is such a perfect close.

Thank you for trusting us with your ears and your minds.

– Ryan Townsend Strand, executive director & tenor


HOME – Jeffrey Derus (b. 1990)

Man Up / Man Down – Robert Maggio (b. 1964)
1. Skate Park Guy 1
2. All The Silences
3. Interlude I: Manhood in the 21st Century
4. Skate Park Guy 2
5. Jet
6. Interlude II: Refrains & Misconceptions
7. Skate Park Guy 3
8. Flower Beds
9. Interlude III: A life just like their fathers’
10. Skate Park Guy 4
11. West Point

manifesto – david lang (b. 1957)


Total time: 37:58
Release date: April 28, 2022