Music talks to me. It may offer visions of hope, renewal, peace or comfort. It may point me to new ways of thinking, living, feeling or being.
And I talk back. I share my own visions. I check if I’ve grasped the message, and try to say it back again. A conversation starts.
My current conversation is with African American spirituals. Whether rooted in song, dance and drumming of West Africa, the experience of oppression by an uprooted people, or the teachings of a transformative faith, they are a voice of human truth. Songs of black American slaves spoke that truth around the world. Responses emerged: an array of arrangements, whole new genres of music, and work for a more just world.
Part of my response comes at the piano. Through new sonorities and textures, I express truths from my own background. I also present melodies, harmonies, rhythms and themes from spirituals, sometimes exploring traditional contexts, and sometimes trying out new ones. My response is as much question as answer, and I invite new responses — musical, visual, verbal, — from the audience and anyone whose experience spirituals can voice.