My Musings about Various Works
Primal Prayer was written in a creative frenzy, day and night over of a few months. It was an outpouring of my life, warts and all.
Musically, it spans my interior landscape starting with European classical tradition, and ending with the blues, though not a one pure in form. I love to mix and match.
I do not write long pieces with many musical concepts that are then developed, but rather simple concepts that become complex as a result of layering. I might only hear 16 bars of something, but I am always ultimately challenged to simplify what I hear in those 16 bars.
My producer, John Herberman, who is a fine symphonic composer, took on the challenge to re-record what I actually heard and had prerecorded. Most producers would have thrown up their hands, screaming 'mud'. I am deeply grateful for his courage and exquisite touch. And boy, did I learn a lot sitting beside him at the mixing board and in the editing program. Thank you, John.
I hope you enjoy these offerings.
Crossin' Over...Songs of Freedom
Though many are familiar with Negro Spirituals, their true meaning is largely not understood, or remembered. They were essentially coded messages for fellow slaves to enable them to successfully escape to freedom. These messages were hidden in what appeared to be Christian songs because slave owners usually attended large gatherings such as Sunday worship services. Interestingly, a huge percentage of slaves were originally Muslims.
The 'chariots' in Swing Low Sweet Chariot does not refer to the after life with Christ, but rather to whatever vehicle those assisting runaway slaves might use to ferry them further along the path - a wagon, a boat, anything in which a runaway slave could be hidden and conveyed to freedom. The 'Jordon River' is actually the Ohio River, or whatever body of water on the other side of which lay freedom, be it in the U.S. or Canada.
I have 'Africanized' these songs with vocalizations, and by giving back the drums which were forbidden to slaves in the U.S. for fear of helping to incite a mass uprising such as the bloody revolt that occurred in Haiti where drums were allowed.
My mother sang these songs to me, and they are deeply rooted in my being.
I hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed recreating them.
Down to the Bones
I was commissioned to write this 18 minute work - a collection of short pieces - to accompany a group art show called 'Down to the Bones.' My dear friend, Evelyn Wolff, took part with glass art pieces representing the chakras. This stunning piece 'Multi Armed Goddess' shows all of of them save the one on the very top of our heads.
Musically, I chose to explore my own DNA, and therefore my ancestors, real or imagined. The real bloodlines are West African, though where I will never know, First Nations - Cherokee, and Irish. The imagined ones, places and cultures to which I am especially attracted, span the rest of the globe. Not all of these bloodlines or cultures are woven into this work, but enough. I thoroughly enjoyed myself.
The very first piece, 'Sitting on my Heels in the Dust' I tried to make it sound like a field recording in Africa somewhere. It represents the first chakra and is at the very base of my life.