Both are also incredibly personal pieces, reflecting some ongoing attempts over the last several years to unpack my identity as black, mixed and queer. I don't want to draw a diagram here, but the spoken texts which bookend "Articulate" are just a few of the many brilliant writings author James Baldwin contributed to the dialogue on race and oppression and identity in the form of essays and fiction alike. It was under the spell of his classic "The Fire Next Time" that I wrote the rest of the text. The aphorisms which make up the "Earthseed Songs" are taken from a spiritual text which appears in author Octavia E. Butler's "Parable of the Sower" and "Parable of the Talents." Butler is known for being one of the first prominent women of color writing in science fiction, and her writing has always managed to deftly mix speculative concerns with real life ones, asking just the right questions of characters and readers alike. Each of these statements, written by the books' primary protagonist, is intended as a statement of resilience and preparation against an oppressive world that isn't too far removed from our own, and their austerity made them a pleasure to work with.
Musically, these pieces both represent the work I've been attempting with loose organization of time and also of trying to maximize the sound of a small chamber ensemble. I was fortunate to be able to work with such great musicians in realizing both of these pieces originally, who were willing to, with the barest minimum of rehearsal, give an excellent performance of some complex music. Since then we've had the chance to iron out some details and polish these pieces into something really special. I'm very pleased to be able to present this recording to you, having captured both compositions in top form.
Much thanks to Ben Klein, Anne Rhodes and Brian Slattery for their playing, Lou Guarino Jr. for his time and recording expertise, James Baldwin and Octavia Butler for having written at all, and everyone who gave me feedback from the first performances.
Two Compositions is dedicated to James Baldwin and Octavia Butler.
In other news, Mal Blum released her latest album, Tempest in a Teacup, last week. I recorded some accordion and backing vox for the track The Difference back in November 2011, and I'm super pleased to hear the final result. The whole album is super well written and sounds gorgeous, with Mal really flexing the muscles of her craft in some subtle and gorgeous ways. Check it out at the above link!
Finally, two upcoming shows. I'll be doing a reading with Brian Slattery on Saturday, May 18th at Books and Co. in Hamden, CT (on Whitney Avenue.) Start time is 7PM. He'll be reading again from Lost Everything, with musical accompaniment from myself and a few other players. And on June 5th I'll be performing an An Historic solo set, opening for songwriter Diane Cluck at Neverending Books. Doors at 7PM, Music starts at 8, $10. Facebook Event Here.
As always, stay tuned.