Photographers: Francesca Talenti; Randy Hostetler.
Unknown Contributor Role: Paul Lansky .
Within his short life span, Randy Hostetler (he died in 1996 at age 32) released very little music and even the material issued by friends after his death doesn't count for much (in terms of quantity). The most striking piece he composed would have to be "Happily Ever After," a 45-minute speech-based work. Between May and December 1986, Hostetler interviewed 66 persons (family members, friends, friends of friends) asking them to tell a story. Some went for fictional stories, others revealed personal experiences, but most used the traditional canvas beginning with "Once upon a time..." and ending with "...happily ever after." The composer edited all this raw material and organized it in threads, discovering parallel lines. The voices are placed in the stereo space from left to right by date of recording, and apart from crude editing, no post-production effect or transformation was applied. All these stories unfold and leap over each other, at times following the same path and then diverging. Segments are repeated as leitmotiv, pauses bring a sense of drama, and everything always remains understandable. These voices answer each other, and the tuttis at the beginning of the piece (when everyone gets ready to start and utters the consecrated opening line) have some kind of indescribable effect on the listener. In only one of the piece's many literary aspects, it ends with a single female voice finishing a touching story -- which doesn't conclude with a "happily ever after" but with the word "home," bringing the listener from faraway places (the fairy tale is usually out of time and place) back to reality. Of course one can appreciate the time, patience, and effort that were poured into the composition, but "Happily Ever After" goes far beyond the successful exercise; it has a human quality that one must hear to fully understand. These stories speak -- they are funny, sad, or strange. Hostetler didn't deconstruct them but rather assembled them into one big story, the quintessential tale Vladimir Propp was after. This piece requires attentive listening in headphones. Of course, "Happily Ever After" is not the kind of work one listens to on a regular basis, but the experience is enriching enough to make it more than worthwhile. ~ Fran‡ois Couture
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