“Composing in the Spirit”: Collaboration, Improvisation, and Sounds of Freedom
The composer and pianist Courtney Bryan will discuss her creative process developing two current and related projects: Awakening, an opera and Sounds of Freedom, a recording. Both projects are inspired by history and explore themes of freedom, spirit, love, home, and sanctuary. While related thematically, each project approaches the creative process in contrasting yet complementary ways regarding collaboration, improvisation, and notation.
Awakening is a one-act opera based on an imagined contemporary woman who transforms herself out of an oppressive situation with the guidance of the spirits of three nineteenth-century Black women religious leaders and freedom fighters: Rebecca Cox Jackson, Sojourner Truth, and Harriet Tubman. Collaborators include the International Contemporary Ensemble, director Charlotte Brathwaite, vocalist Helga Davis, artist Cauleen Smith, librettist Sharan Strange, and dramaturgs Sunder Ganglani and Matthew Morrison.
Bryan’s recent recording project, Sounds of Freedom, is inspired by an experimental music tradition stemming from the Black Arts Movement in New Orleans. Its collaborators include drummer Joe Dyson, saxophonist Stephen Gladney, bassist Brian Quezergue, saxophonists Calvin Johnson and Khari Allen Lee, trumpeter Kevin Louis, and poet Chuck Perkins. Ideas for sounds of freedom in both projects include interviews with her collaborators, with Fellows at the American Academy in Rome, and selected participants in fifth edition of the Black History Month Florence festival.
Bryan is the Samuel Barber Rome Prize Fellow in Musical Composition and an assistant professor in the Newcomb Department of Music at Tulane University.
This shoptalk will be held in English.