by Anthony R. Green
Greetings BIBA fans! Apologies for the brief radio silence. I am writing to you from an artist residency in Kumasi, Ghana, and this past week has filled me with quite a bit of magic, emotions, and intensity. The following BIBA blogs will briefly touch on my experiences here in Ghana, but just know that what I will present here will only scratch the surface of all that has actually happened during my trip! While I wish I could share everything with all of you, I’m not sure if the internet even has enough space for that! HA!!! At any rate, this blog will focus on arriving to Accra.
The direct flight from Amsterdam to Accra was smooth and surprisingly enriching. I was sitting next to a Black woman from the US whose husband is Ghanaian. She explained to me that after her first trip to Ghana, she never wanted to leave, and she has been back every year. She also reports that many Black US citizens feel the same way (and now I totally understand why!). I watched two incredibly powerful Black movies: “Judas and the Black Messiah” directed by Shaka King, and “Waves” by Trey Edward Shults. While Shults is not Black, the movie boasted Black lead roles in a drama that touched heavily upon Blackness (similarly to “The Last Black Man in San Francisco”). After landing, there is a series of lines in which one must stand in order to receive a coronavirus test and the proper passport and visa controls. While waiting in these lines, I heard stories from other people about this particular trip. One Black young man from Canada was coming to visit extended family he has never met before. Another young Black couple from the United States was coming visit friends and experience the country again. There were Black Dutch families coming, Ghanaians living abroad coming to visit family and friends, and more. It was beautiful to hear such stories in passing, and to be immersed in Blackness in a way I had never experienced.
The nighttime taxi ride to my hotel was such magic. It was about 9PM when I left the airport. I saw TroTros (vans filled with passengers that are the cheapest form of public transportation), vendors selling goods, friends dancing and smiling, palm trees, street food … the driver showed me some fantastic architecture, and pointed to the Dutch embassy when we passed it along the way. After a small hiccup with Google maps, we arrived to the hotel, and I checked in, relaxed, and prepared myself for an exciting adventure in Ghana. I was also looking forward to trying pawpaw for the first time at breakfast the next day!
by Anthony R. Green
While many composers throughout history have had children, precious few of those children become professional composers. While we have some examples from European composers such as Johann Strauss and his son Johann, Johann Sebastian Bach and a couple of his sons (ex. Carl Philipp Emanuel), Karlheinz Stockhausen and his son Markus, Hendrik Andriessen and his son Louis, and others, the numbers diminish when focusing on specifically Black composers. On this Father's Day, let's take a look at two Black composers whose had children who were composers!
The first composer examined today is Mzilikazi Khumalo! While he predominantly is known as a scholar and professor of African languages, his contributions as a composer cannot be ignored. His interests in linguistics has resulted in his repertoire including many vocal pieces using texts in various African languages. His most beloved work is his opera Princess Magogo kaDinuzulu, the first opera in the Zulu language. Watch one of his 5 African Songs in an orchestration above! His son Andile Khumalo is a prominent, celebrated, highly experienced young, contemporary composer, whose music embraces many styles, and is rooted in avant-garde and experimental techniques. A music lecturer at the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa, Khumalo's music has been performed internationally, and recently championed by Ensemble Dal Niente. Check out their portrait concert below!
The next two composers are quite special. Samuel Coleridge-Taylor is no stranger to Castle of our Skins, and one of the better known Black composers of history, especially given the popularity of his Hiawatha's Wedding Feast (which was, at one point in history, more frequently programmed and performed than Händel's Messiah ). Castle of our Skins recently performed his Clarinet Quintet in a collaboration with Windsor Music, which you can find below!
Avril Coleridge-Taylor, one of Samuel's children, was an accomplished composer and pianist. Controversially, her conservative views - most likely attributed to her ability to pass as white - included an indifference towards apartheid practices in South Africa. While serving as a researcher there, her quarter-African heritage (through Samuel's father) was discovered, and she was banned from professionally working there, which changed her opinion about apartheid quickly. In her life, she composed the Ceremonial March to celebrate Ghana's independence, as well as chamber music, solo piano music, and a piano concerto. At the moment, none of her music is available on YouTube. I found a snippet of her Nocturne for piano, played that snippet, and uploaded it for all of you BIBA fans. Enjoy the video below, and Happy Father's Day!
COOS INTERRUPTS YOUR SEMI-REGULAR SCHEDULED BIBA POSTING TO INTRODUCE ...
THE BLACK COMPOSER MINIATURE CHALLENGE! #BCMC
Excited by the overwhelming success and support of last year's #BCMC, Castle of our Skins has extended last year's #BCMC project into 4 parts! In this next installation, composers who identify as Black and part of the African diaspora are challenged to compose pieces for flute and harp! Each piece must be 30 seconds (give or take) or less. Pieces can be scored for:
- solo flute (piccolo, C, alto, and bass)
- solo harp
- flute & harp duo
* if wanting to use auxiliary instruments, electronic or digital elements, or think outside of these parameters in any way, please consult with Anthony at anthony [at] castleskins.org BEFORE starting your piece!
- Pieces are due August 1, 2021 by 11:59PM; early submissions are welcome and encouraged!
- The works will be rehearsed and recorded before September 1, 2021
- The miniatures will be performed in various presentations during Castle of our Skins's upcoming 9th season. Stay tuned for more information about the premieres of these pieces!
How to submit:
- Please send your piece as a PDF and any necessary material for performance (parts, tracks, notation keys, etc ...) in any relevant format to anthony [at] castleskins.org . *Note: if sending multiple files, please use Google Drive, Dropbox, Box, WeTransfer, or other multifile web service
- along with your piece submission, please send a creative headshot and a 100 word or less bio, with any social media handles/website links you would like shared (even if you've submitted and were selected in the past!)
- NOTE: This is part 2 of a 4 part project! Composers can be part of only 2 of the 4 parts. Composers from part 1 applying to #BCMC 2.0 can NOT apply to parts 3 and 4!
WE LOOK FORWARD TO PREMIERING YOUR MINIATURES!
by Anthony R. Green
Did you catch it? Did you see Castle of our Skins's latest digital on-demand project titled From the Motherland? Including today you have 8 days left! For those who haven't seen it, set aside some time in your calendars to watch it ... at least twice! For those who have seen it only once ... SEE IT AGAIN! Why, you may ask? This performance is so rich that it is difficult to appreciate it fully in one go, even though one can easily go on this incredible journey with Tanyaradzwa and her incredible band-mates, and experience such a life-affirming musical exhibition that is sure to leave a deep impression on your heart, mind, body, and soul.
Photo Credit: www.RobertTorresPhotography.com
During this performance, Tanyaradzwa's journey through 12 songs evokes the spirit of Mwedzi, a Chivanhu word meaning moon, month, and menstrual cycle. In this evocation, Tanyaradzwa intimately and boldly recounts her journey into womanhood. She writes: Mwedzi tells the story of my rite of passage into Womanhood. This 12-year journey began in 2008, when I left Zimbabwe for the United States. As a Zimbabwean woman living in the USA, staying grounded in ancestral wisdom has been vital for my survival.
The songs run the gambit of emotions, in parallel to Tanyaradzwa's 12-year story. Enthusiastic, community-building songs invite the digital audience to participate (like the fun, bright, and rhythmically sophisticated Anchulele). Slower, intimate songs bring the audience into a spirit of reflection and (perhaps) penitence and honor (like the incredibly poignant, simple, transcendental Mwoyo Muti). Then there are moments of unadulterated mature wit and clever surmounting of life's obstacles (like the cheeky, whimsical songs Chef and Mysterious Woman). I cannot speak highly enough of the incredible musicianship of Tanyaradzwa and her band mates Etienne Charles and Gerson Lazo-Quiroga. What a synergy they all share; what a deep level of communication, clarity of destination, and ease in musical fluidity. The instrument combinations are fascinating, highlighting a wide range of colors and textures. The rhythms are so complex, yet all organically felt and executed by the incredible bond of these three talented lights.
From the Motherland - stop everything and watch now!
Hello BIBA fans! In our last #BCMC month BIBA blog, we have yet another VLOG! This time, check out a conversation with Brittany J. Green, a rising-star composer, currently working on a Ph. D. degree at Duke University! If you've enjoyed these #BCMC Blogs, be sure to share them with friends and family, and spread the word that the scores for these incredible miniatures are now available to purchase as a digital download from the Castle of our Skins store! Check them out HERE!
Hey BIBA fans! Today's BIBA is a composer chat featuring two #BCMC composers, Emerson Sudbury and Forbes Graham! Click below to listen/watch and learn more about their music, their lives, and their miniatures! We hope you enjoy the conversation, and for those who tuned into the Instagram live chat with Shannon Sea and Monthati Masebe - thank you so much! For those who could not make it, don't worry! It's archived on our instagram account, @castleskins! Next week's BIBA will be our last in this #BCMC month series, and that will be a chat with the incredible Brittany J. Green!
#BCMC Month is STILL GOING STRONG here at Castle of our Skins, and it's always a joy to revisit these miniatures. We learn something every time we hear them, and we love sharing that joy with you! With that, we have some surprises in store! Next week's BIBA (most likely posting on Wednesday or Thursday) will be a VLOG featuring composer/performer/visual artist Forbes Graham and the incredible composer/musician/arts administrator Emerson Sudbury! Additionally, Castle of our Skins will host an INSTAGRAM LIVE CHAT with Shannon Sea and Monthati Masebe!! This will happen May 24th (this coming Monday!) at 1:30PM Eastern time! To attend, just follow @castleskins on Instagram, and tune in then! In the meantime, enjoy the last set of 6 miniatures below!
This particular miniature is solidly within Nash's voice, which mixes R&B, Gospel, and Soul with classical, counterpoint, and contemporary sounds. Love the build-up in this miniature!
It was so great to receive this miniature from such a powerhouse composer! This Wagnerian miniature completely stuns and explodes! Happy 80th birthday, Adolphus Hailstork!
This poetic, Haiku-esque miniature has a realistic element with the electronics, and a melodic commentary from the instruments that speaks volumes in its simplicity. What does it say to you?
This curious exploration miniature has multiple levels : the viola has moments of instability with pitch, the pianist has moments of rhythmic instability, yet there is this insistence that dominates! Bravo!
This lite, curious miniature references medieval, romantic, classical, and contemporary styles! Above all this, however, there is a joie-de-vivre and a humor that brightens the soul!
Where Charles Murrell's miniature referenced medieval music, Violaceous fits solidly within the style, yet is the most rhythmically complex of the set. Love the caccia elements here.
Remember to catch a VLOG next week in this space, and to enter our Instagram space on Monday at 1:30PM for a LIVE chat with two of our #BCMC composers, Shannon Sea and Monthati Masebe!
May has been FULL of opportunities from Castle of our Skins! We EXTENDED OUR DEADLINE FOR THE SHIRLEY GRAHAM DU BOIS CREATIVE-IN-RESIDENCE! (If you want to apply, be sure to do so by next week, and tell your friends!) We also are looking for children 10 and under to apply for our digital summer camp, and we have offered a direct way to reach out to us for collaborative ideas! With that, we are POSTPONING the release of our second #BCMC, and we'll have a due date in July! Stay tuned for the official announcement NEXT MONTH!
In the meantime, please enjoy the next set of 6 miniatures by Shannon Sea, Jonathan Bailey Holland, Kevin Madison, Brian Raphael Nabors, Forbes Graham, and Brittany J. Green! Click below!
In this miniature character study for solo viola, Shannon Sea composes a melody that is full of insistence. It has a subtle complexity that reveals itself on repeated listenings (hint hint!).
In this miniature journey, there is a glance. It is perhaps represented by the viola's extensions. There is also a blur. The frustration of the blur along with its intrusive nature is represented in the piano.
The lengthiest of our miniatures, this penetrative piece also incorporates spoken word mixed with viola accompaniment. The practice mute informs the timbral world the most.
What a FUN miniature! Brian is no stranger to the COOS fam, having been composer-in-residence from 2018 - 2019! His contemporary-tonal-atonal seamless blending is evident here!
Did you ever think 30 seconds would be enough time to compose a work where two personalities are in dialogue with each other? Well ... it is! And Forbes has proven it!! Can you hear the dialogue?
Brittany and Anthony have the same last name, and this video was released on Anthony's birthday!! The harmonies here drop in all the right places, and the fixed audio pillow is FIRE!
#BCMC Month on BIBA will continue with our next post that will complete the 18 submissions. What will come afterwards? Well ... you'll have to wait and find out!
Last year, right around this time, co-founders Anthony R. Green and Ashleigh Gordon came up with a number of ideas to keep up our presence throughout this period of being home, a period to which many of us have grown oddly accustomed (out of necessity). One of these ideas ended up taking on a life we did not expect at all ... which brings us to now! This month, we're celebrating our Black Composer Miniature Challenge! Released almost 1 year exactly today, the #BCMC in its first iteration received submissions from 18 incredible composers and creative musicians! A year out, Castle of our Skins has released a digital anthology of these pieces, which is available for purchase today!! Interested in purchasing? Please CLICK HERE to purchase this volume from our web store!
Missed the pieces from last year? That's okay! The miniature performances are available on our Instagram, website, and will be featured here this month! As each piece is between 30 to 50 seconds, each piece is a gem that can be experienced quickly! The first 6 to be featured are Eddie Conrad, Juwon Ogungbe, Kathryn Patricia Cobbler, Monthati Masebe, Yaz Lancaster, and Mokale Koapeng!
The youngest of the composers, Eddy's Tom Bombadil is a miniature about a Lord of the Rings character of the same name! It is happy, bright, and melodious! A joy to play!
This particular miniature is about a wedding tradition in Nigeria! What I love about this delightful gem is seamless transition to another key, symbolic of love's journey!
The first of the solo viola miniatures, A Home Called 'Wander' incorporates spoken word as well. Ashe and Kathryn had a wonderful exchange in developing this miniature!
This clever gem begins with the piano instruction to play with the index fingers, and eventually accelerate to the end! The rhythms here are fascinating ... and so surprising!
Another solo viola miniature, Ashe is requested to sing - a color and a layer that adds another surprising dimension to this short yet poignant journey!
Pholoso means "salvation", and this is the first of the gems in our series that has a bold, powerful character. It excites, and hopefully inspires the desire to enact justice and positive social change!
Be sure to tune in next week for 6 more #BCMC miniatures with 6 reviews ... and an official announcement of our SECOND #BCMC, with works due in June! And if you want to buy some music after hearing, seeing, and reading about these 6 works above, be sure to CLICK HERE!
by Anthony R. Green
In anticipation of Castle of our Skins’s “From the Motherland” project this June, BIBA would like to bring your attention to the incredible world of Emahoy Tsegué‑Maryam Guèbrou ፅጌ ማርያም ገብሩ. Pan African Music published a fascinating article about her in January, which was shared with Castle of our Skins by our friend Bongani Ndodana-Breen, a fantastic scholar and composer from South Africa. In this article, one can dive into Ms. Emahoy Guèbrou’s rollercoaster of a life, which includes studying violin and piano in Switzerland as a child, becoming a prisoner of war, further studying music in Egypt, being supported by Emperor Haile Selassie, releasing her first album in her 40s, speaking 7 languages, and more. Her story and accomplishments form yet another example of a talent whose ethnicity, geography, and skin color most likely contributed to her position within the greater music world.
After reading this article, I remembered that this year was not the first time I came across the life and music of this quiet Ethiopian genius. 5 years after graduating from the New England Conservatory of Music (where Ashe and I first met!!), another classmate of mine – Mary Sutton – released the above video and shared her research and interactions with Ms. Guèbrou. Sutton considers Guèbrou “the most unique pianist of our time”, and I cannot agree with her more. Throughout YouTube, a simple search of Emahoy Tsegué‑Maryam Guèbrou will result in numerous videos of her playing her compositions and some of her albums. The search will also reveal some of the upcoming videos of other pianists performing Ms. Emahoy Tsegué‑Maryam Guèbrou’s compositions, one of whom is the focus of the PAM article, the Israeli pianist and sound artist Maya Dunietz. We here at Castle of our Skins highly suggest spending some time in this intimate world. YOU WILL NOT REGRET IT!
Writings, musings, photos, links, and videos about Black Artistry of ALL varieties!
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