Well, it has been a while since my last post. This is not due to lack of work and research into this big project, however. Since my last post in December I have been listening and reading, allowing myself to wander with my research. I am grateful to have this semester off from teaching so that I can throw myself into pre-compositional research in hopes of coming up with a substantial and meaningful large-scale work of art.
This project began as a proposal to write a concert-length piece for wind ensemble, film, and electronics, drawing on themes from the South and film from the wonderful MIRC archive at U of South Carolina. My research has taken me from my comfort zone in Southern roots music styles and recordings to more uncomfortable places in trying to understand my own identity (a white male...) and family history (old Southern roots on my father's side, Irish-Catholic NYC roots on my mom's) in the South against a ever-flowing stream of politically charged headlines on confederate monuments, racism in the South, and police violence against black citizens across the country. My research began with understanding the history of confederate monuments themselves, which led to civil war history, which took me to the antebellum South, which brought me to colonial America, which took me further back in history to the development of race and racism in our world.
The structure of the work is still in flux, but my goal is to come up with a large-scale structure that will enable me to comment on aspects of all of this research, combining global and local viewpoints and working in both abstraction and specifics. One change I have made already is that I am going to incorporate a number of songs in the piece, and my brilliant USC colleague Rachel Calloway has agreed to sing! Plenty more to come on these particulars.
Lastly (for now...), I wanted to share some of the books and resources that have made lasting impressions on me throughout this research period:
Southern Poverty Law Center
Racial Equity Institute
"Seeing White", from "Scene on the Radio"
Confederates in the Attic, by Tony Horwitz
Stamped from the beginning, by Ibram X. Kendi
The History of White People, by Nell Irvin Painter
Goat Castle, by Karen Cox
Killer Angles, by Michael Shaara
Short stories by William Faulkner
And these are up next in the queue:
The Southern Past, by W. Fitzhugh Brundage
Race and Reunion, by David W. Blight
Reconstructing Dixie, by Tara MacPherson
Avengers of the New World, by Laurent Dubois
A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived, by Adam Rutherford
Check back soon for my next post!