|Numinous The Music of Joseph C. Phillips Jr.
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This post is the second in a series profiling some of the inspirations and thoughts behind the movements of my composition Changing Same premiering March 16th, 2013 at the Ecstatic Music Festival in New York City.
2. “Behold the Only Thing Greater than Yourself”
I remember sitting down as a family to watch the mini-series Roots and ours were one of many families that did the same. Roots became a talked about topic in my neighborhood and in the backyard football and baseball field. Not that I was particularly interested in slavery but even the young elementary school kid I was recognized that Roots was an amazing achievement at that time: an entire high-profile TV series based on black characters that not only black people were interested in watching. It taught a very early lesson to me that stories involving black people and lives were also worth watching and telling.
The title for the second movement of Changing Same comes from the scene in Roots when the family patriarch lifts his newborn child to the star-filled night sky and proclaims “Behold, the only thing greater than yourself.” Those words are a powerfully plangent call valuing one’s intrinsic self-worth and potential in spite of societal resistance often working in opposition to maintaining a positive self-evaluation. Throughout America’s history, blacks confronted this resistance, as James Baldwin wrote, by “groaning and moaning, watching, calculating, clowning, surviving, and outwitting” with “some tremendous strength…nevertheless being forged, which is part of [black] legacy today.”1 And today it is often single mothers left to hold on to that legacy, presenting their children before the world with the gift of love, resiliency, resolve, and strength.
This movement is dedicated to my mom, who struggled as a single parent to raise me and my siblings with that gift of love and strength, resolve, and resiliency so that we are able to not only survive but live and thrive; to have skills and fortitude to take advantage of any opportunity, adding a small contribution to that legacy.
Ecstatic Music Festival
with Imani Uzuri
Saturday March 16th, 2013
Merkin Concert Hall
129 W. 67th Street
(between Broadway and Amsterdam Ave)
Check back as I'll post some more crib notes about the movements from Changing Same.
James Baldwin, “An Open Letter to My Sister, Miss Angela Davis.”
POSTED BY NUMINOUS AT 10:00 AM
To all things that create a sense of wonder and beauty that inspires and enlightens.