|Numinous The Music of Joseph C. Phillips Jr.|
The Numinosum Blog
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 18, 2013
"R&B is about emotion, issues purely out of emotion. New Black Music is also about emotion, but from a different place, and finally, towards a different end. What these musicians feel is a more complete existence. That is, the digging of everything."
-LeRoi Jones (Amiri Baraka), “The Changing Same” (1966)
Changing Same, my composition premiering on the Ecstatic Music Festival on March 16, 2013, is a philosophical and musical departure for me: it is a conscious acknowledgement of my early heritage in black popular music and culture. Previously my work was little interested in specifically or overtly reflecting this background in my musical language; my philosophy was (and still is) representative of a ‘post-black’ artistic freedom to explore any creative interest, unburdened with the obligation of only representing or being influenced by ‘the race.’ I am a composer, not just a ‘black’ composer. My journey ‘home’ began a few years ago when I was taken aback by something writer John Murph stated in an interview: “…there’s the whole idea of what is deemed more artistically valid… [with] artists incorporating contemporary pop music. I notice a certain disdain when some black…artists channel R&B, funk, and hip-hop, while their white contemporaries get kudos for giving makeovers to the likes of Radiohead, Nick Drake, and Bjork.”1
While my influences growing up (and now) are quite catholic—an inter-cultural fluency wherein James Brown and Yes, Eddie Van Halen and John Coltrane, go-go music and minimalism provide equal inspiration—I wondered if John Murph’s statement was really true and if so, why was it true? Regardless of the validity of the charge, this question provoked a challenge in me. Fueling a desire, like Duke Ellington in the 1940s with Black, Brown, and Beige or Wadada Leo Smith recently with Ten Freedom Summers, to create music that speaks to the “dichotomies of high and low, inside and outside, tradition and innovation”2 within black culture and explores the richness and complexity of being black in 21st century America; but also music that resonates a more universal artistic expression filtered through the changing sameness of an intimately autobiographical perspective.
So-called indie classical/alt-classical is a reflection of alternative rock and other vernacular music as a palimpsest for the creation of new contemporary music of an expansive and open definition and vision. I wanted to express similar aesthetic ideas however using black vernacular music as the main source, testing John Murph’s assertion. From these musings the gestation of Changing Same began. Musically almost every movement is influenced by a fragment, motive, or chord progression from various black popular music influences I grew up with. I, however, wanted to recognize other sources of inspiration as well—a “digging of everything”—so almost all the movements are connected to various influential classical music and/or personal and cultural memories during my lifetime. This miscegenation is done not in a post-modern sense of ironic collage, but rather as a genuine search to create an organic fusion of artistic and cultural influences, to create a new personal artistic statement that is more than the sum of its parts. This is mixed music.
Check back because in later posts I will be discussing the inspirations behind each movement for Changing Same and for the music nerds out there with a few movements I'll provide some detailed analysis. Hope you to see you in March.
Ecstatic Music Festival
with Imani Uzuri
Saturday March 16th, 2013
Merkin Concert Hall
129 W. 67th Street
(between Broadway and Amsterdam Ave)
Interview with John Murph on Open Sky Jazz “Ain’t But a Few of Us: Black jazz writers tell their story pt2,” http://www.openskyjazz.com/2009/06/aint-but-a-few-of-us-black-jazz-writers-tell-their-story-pt2/.
Touré, Who’s Afraid of Post-Blackness?: What it Means to Be Black Now, 32 (Atria Books, 2011).
POSTED BY NUMINOUS AT 10:30 AM
To all things that create a sense of wonder and beauty that inspires and enlightens.