In 1970, at the height of the Vietnam War, Canadian band the Guess Who released the song American Woman. The album of the same name became their first U.S. Top Ten hit and first gold album. The group performed for President and Mrs. Nixon and Prince Charles at the White House. (Pat Nixon requested that American Woman be dropped from the set list.)
In recomposing American Woman I was thinking of two wars: the Iraq war and the strange war against the body waged by the American beauty industry. The war in Iraq costs over $2 billion per week while Americans spend more than $15 billion per year on cosmetic surgery. In 2004 nearly 12 million surgical and non-surgical beauty procedures were performed in the U.S., including more than 290,000 eyelid jobs, 166,000 nose jobs, 478,000 liposuctions and 334,000 breast enhancements. In The Real Truth About Beauty: A Global Report, Susie Orbach and Nancy Etcoff found that only two percent of women feel comfortable describing themselves as beautiful.
American Woman has been covered by Lenny Kravitz, Krokus and the The Butthole Surfers, among others. This version was commissioned by Motion Ensemble with funding from the Canada Council for the Arts.
Rain is an iconic poem by Hone Tuwhare, describing beautifully a feature of the weather but also subtly ruminating on death. The setting is quiet and lyrical, with an optional part for a rainmaker (to be played by the singer). This setting for baritone and piano was written for Matt Landreth, and recorded by him. The recording and score were auctioned to raise funds for the Otago Hospice appeal in May 2008. The song was subsequently scored for orchestra and recorded by Matt Landreth and the Auckland Philharmonia.