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American Woman

for soprano and ensemble

Year:  2008   ·  Duration:  7m
Instrumentation:  for soprano, alto flute, bass clarinet, percussion, keyboard, violin and double bass

Year:  2008
Duration:  7m
Instrumentation  for soprano, alto flute, ba...

Composer:   Juliet Palmer

Films, Audio & Samples

Juliet Palmer: American Wom...

Embedded video
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Sample Score

Sample: Page 4, 5, 8 and 9

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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.

Commissioned note

Commissioned by Motion Ensemble with funding from the Canada Council for the Arts

Text note

Burton Cummings (excerpted from the Guess Who song of the same name)

Performance history

31 Jul 2009: Performed by Helen Pridmore (soprano) and Motion Ensemble as part of the OK. Quoi?! Festival of Contemporary Art at Sackville, Canada

06 Mar 2015: Aventa Ensemble | Auckland

20 Oct 2019: Auckland Chamber Orchestra | Composer Portrait - Juliet Palmer

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