This piece deploys one of American music’s most enduring tropes--that of depiction, centrally represented by Charles Ives, Blind Tom, Elliott Carter, Florence Price, and so many others. The single obsessive motif that dominates the arrangement constitutes what Duke Ellington might call a "tone parallel" to Amiri Baraka's influential 1966 essay, "The Changing Same (R&B and New Black Music)," which argues for a transhistorical essence of Afrodiasporic musical creativity. While I am suspicious of essentialisms, the George Floyd murder and the copycat responses by law enforcement that immediately followed the perpetrator’s conviction fueled a certain Afro-pessimism regarding the possibility of real change in America. This wariness is reflected in the piece, which converts the melody of "America, The Beautiful" into a kind of Schenkerian Ursatz; some notes are missing, but they can be redeemed when the country proves itself worthy of their return.
George E. Lewis, Professor of American Music at Columbia University, is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a Corresponding Fellow of the British Academy, a MacArthur Fellow, a Guggenheim Fellow, and the recipient of the Doris Duke Artist Award. A member of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians since 1971, Lewis’s compositions (including the widely influential interactive improvisation software, Voyager), have been performed by ensembles worldwide, and he holds honorary doctorates from the University of Edinburgh, New College of Florida, and Harvard University. Lewis is the author of A Power Stronger Than Itself: The AACM and American Experimental Music (University of Chicago Press) and co-editor of the two-volume Oxford Handbook of Critical Improvisation Studies.
As the artistic director of Center for Musical Excellence, I am always on the look out for new and undiscovered talents. They come to me, sometimes, by my colleagues’ recommendations and other times through young artists’ own research about our organization. Tyson Davis and Andrew Bambridge are currently on our roster of CME Young Artists, whom we mentor. Patricio Molina is a CME alumnus. Theo Chandler, Ji-Young Ko, and Daniel Newman-Lessler applied for our Grant program, and I got to know their work through that process. I decide on young artists when I notice a deep passion and drive within them, plus a certain kind of sparkle in the personality and lots of humility. In addition to musical talents, I believe these are the qualities that will take the young artists far. CME’s motto is "Moving Musicians Forward". I’ve chosen our Discovery Composers based on these qualities, whom we felt we could easily move forward.
- Min Kwon