Kennedy Center’s “Cartography Project” aims to map the future of classical music –

Kennedy Center’s “Cartography Project” aims to map the future of classical music –

Only a certain part of the map – the one that goes to the center, where the pastels seem to lighten the most – has been considered controversial. In short, I’m a white in America, so I “learned” geography as a subgroup with little training and conquests.

It would take me a long time to realize that the maps were predictions from someone else’s perspective. Flatten each map and destroy what it depicts. These maps are just powerful images.

But for Mark Bamut, vice president of the Kennedy Center and artistic director of social impact, maps are also a poetic hit. Maps tell stories from the past and help us interpret the present (e.g. sound waves or climate). But especially for the Cartography Project, the Joseph Flagship Initiative for the Kennedy Center, they help us move forward.

The Cartography Project, a multi-year initiative, produces new works by dozens of composers and artists of color, each representing American societies ravaged by institutional and interpersonal racial violence: Minneapolis, Louisville, Baltimore – the list goes on. .

“We treat these acts of violence metaphorically,” said Joseph, 46, who started the project in February. We draw points, and these points show not only how to move between them, but also how to go further.

For the classical viewer, the aesthetic distance has long allowed to consume pain; This means that institutions seeking to portray the experience of blacks in America – a visible turning point since the summer of 2020 – remain largely at the center of suffering. many blacks. The artists I spoke to.

This voice you hear is a long-standing assessment of classical music against racism.

Rather than engaging in studies that shed even more light on black trauma, Joseph was convinced that he would take the true north of the “cartography” course: “black dignity” studies.

“If there is a calculation that will take us to a place where we know how to deport and arrest people,” says Joseph, “is there an algorithm that reflects the culture? Can it move us to a place that frees people or creates a space for compassion and empathy? “

On March 15 and 16 at Kennedy Center Studio K, members of the National Symphony Orchestra and Washington National Opera will premiere the first eight chamber and vocal works commissioned for “Cartography” and excerpts from the screen. 10 episode documentary series by DC director TL Benton.

This first lot has three NSO commissions: Aurora, Colo., “Hymn for GO” by composer Jessica Mays; Cleveland composer Nathaniel Haider’s “Before Time”; And “Breona Lullaby” by Derek Douglas Carter in Louisville.

He has also received five commissions from the WNO: “Mo (u) rning” from Atlanta composer BE Boykin and librettist Britney Ray Crowell; Minaspolis composer Liz Gray and librettist Junauda Petrus-Nasah “Descendants of Permanent Innocence”; Oakland, California, composer Jens Ibsen and librettist Jasmina Ibsen “The Beautiful Girl”; “The Burning Bush,” directed by Baltimore composer Jasmine Barnes and librettist Joshua Banber; And “Road Ahead,” in which Joseph collaborated with Kennedy Center composer Carlos Simon.

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“What connects the connective tissue here,” says Joseph, “is perfection. Because if he doesn’t listen, if the heart doesn’t feel so politically responsible and compositionally rigid, then everything falls apart. The task of this work: to read, but also to get drunk “.

Although 28-year-old composer Derek Douglas Carter does not reside in Louisville, he lived in Louisville for four years with a leisurely pace and a caring sense of community. In September 2020, mostly peaceful protests filled the streets in response to the police killing of Breona Taylor. Suddenly, members of the National Guard were patrolling the streets with helicopters overhead. This shook him deeply.

“The last few years have been traumatic, I think that’s the right word,” he said. “It is wrong to say this: I am traumatized when I am not the one killed. But this is true. “When there is a night curfew and helicopters, it’s a very traumatic experience.”

His contribution, the “breona lullaby”, takes the form of a simple ABA, his introduction is a soft lullaby for clarinet, viola, bass and piano. He mixes gender into a holistic whole and creates a stage for consciousness to go to.

“I wanted to explore sleep and dreams in Part B,” Carter said. “I tried to write how it sounded if I could. [Breonna] With a prophetic nightmare ”.

Collaborators Jasmine Barnes, 30, and Joshua Banber, 26, have a collaborative history that brought them back to their 2017 work The Illustrator and are now members of the American Lyrical Theater. Development program of the composer’s libretto.

“I think when you stage black characters in the opera, it’s very simple,” said Benber, who works with Barnes at Morgan State University in Baltimore. “If you have a new work about a black man, it’s usually junkie jazz musicians or a reporter fighting. It is very rare to encounter abstract expressionism when expressing black experiences.

Thus, the tension at the heart of The Burning Bush (inspired by the injuries sustained in police custody following the death of Freddie Gray in 2015) stems not only from the obvious stylistic suspension between Opera House and vaudeville, but also from subtle criticisms. The bitter black history of America.

“What I love about Joshua is that he researches everything we write and it really helps me with my reference as a composer,” says Baltimore resident Barnes. He was researching the history of Baltimore, and this vaudeville setting, this musical style, this art form was actually what you saw in Baltimore theaters at the time.

Currently the “Cartography Project” has no project outcome, but remains open and active indefinitely (four commissions have been announced for next season). There is also a larger project to change traditional institutions to move from the checklists of diversity initiatives to a more inclusive reality.

“I didn’t know classical music was that field,” says Joseph. “I don’t know if this area was Kennedy’s headquarters. But as an agent or as a tool of both, I think about what I can do as part of the design of the future that I love. “

cartography project The first eight commissions begin March 15 and 16 at the Studio K Kennedy Center. kennedy-center.org.

Source: Washington Post

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