The Race: 1915

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Instrumentation: Solo cello and electronics

Duration: 7′

Program Notes: The Race: 1915 (2019) is inspired by the colorful vibrancy and nostalgic realism of visual artist Jacob Lawrenceʼs “The Migration Series”, which depicts images of African Americans as they embarked on one of the most expansive migratory movements in history. The work, for solo cello and electronics, combines blues inspired melodies (including a quote from “Praise God We Are Not Weary” by Tom Brown and Tom Lemonier) with the angst and uncertainty of transient movement, against a colorfully active electronic palette. It addresses at once the uprooting and resilience of black people in America.

The work calls for the performer to recite text sourced from The Chicago Defender, one of the most important and historic black newspapers. Weekly issues of The Chicago Defender played an essential role in promoting The Great Migration, and all of the text is taken from issues published in 1915 – the year marking the beginning of the movement which would span nearly six decades. By citing the atrocities faced by African Americans in the oppressive and violent Jim Crow south, and providing resources for those seeking freedom, millions were compelled to embark on incredibly challenging journeys, leading to the development of the northern and western city centers of the United States. The publication adopted the term “the Race”, which was used in lieu of the terms negro or black – a significant and powerful statement of self.

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