Cooperstown – a jazz opera by Sasha Matson

coopers town

The story of Cooperstown is an American story about the great American pastime–baseball. It speaks to the heart of Americans, how our passions easily and guilelessly blur or tear us apart.

Alex Player Wavesurfer

Inning 1 – intro

Inning 4 -vocals

Baseball, more than any other major league sport, is deeply woven into the fabric of American culture. It is a metaphor for life.

Sasha Matson, composer

Opera and baseball? Opera and jazz? Yeah. An opera about one heart too big and one heart too small that plays out like a present-day Othello, of passion and obsession, and the regret over choices not taken. Cooperstown is a masterful expression of jazz in the Miles Davis tradition.

“It breaks your heart.” That was the poetic language A. Bartlett Giamatti used in his beautiful essay The Green Fields of the Mind, and I am pleased that the Giamatti estate gave us permission to use his text. I began to work backward from there in the fall of 2000.

Whose heart? How was it broken?

In Giamatti ‘s thinking, baseball is a game but al so an art form, with the capacity to express the deepest emotional truths about individuals and society. One has only to pick up the sports pages to see this dynam io acted out against the econ om io and cultural realities of our time.
Baseball has its own speoi fie hi storioal m usi­oal attributes. One of them is the sound of the stadium organ. That sound led me quickly to scoring the music for a Miles jazz quintet. This particular grouping of instruments is as capable as any large orchestra of realizing music in all its potential variety. The musical materials boil down to the rising three-chord Charge fanfare still heard in stadiums every­where, which can be turned to the dark side by becoming an altered dominant harmony.
Early on in the composing process I had a sonic picture in my ear of what a finished recording of Cooperstown might sound like. I used as a model the great Blue Note stereo recordings of the late ’50s and early ’60s engineered by Rudy Van Gelder. Trumpet hard left, saxophone hard right-then added the vocal cast of five. —-Sasha Matson

About the Composer

Sasha Matson was born in Seattle, and grew up in Berkeley, California. As an undergraduate he attended the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, where his primary composition teachers were Elinor Armer and John Adams – later studying privately with Andrew Imbrie.

Sasha completed graduate studies at UCLA, where he received the PhD in music theory and composition. In Los Angeles Sasha composed for a variety of media – his credits include the scores for a dozen dramatic feature films. He has taught at La Grange College, Long Island University, and the State University of New York.  Recordings include two albums with audiophile producer Joe Harley –  Steel Chords & i-5 ( New Albion Records )

These have been followed by two albums produced by John Atkinson – Cooperstown   (Albany/Troy Records ) and Tight Lines ( Stereophile Records ). 

Sasha writes extensively about music and audio, and is currently a Contributing Editor for Stereophile magazine, AudioQuest Music and Range of Light.

 For all booking or other contact inquires please email Dr. Matson at the following address

The American in Tent exploring the art of the possible with podcasting and streaming Edinburgh Festival 2021