Tales: a folklore symphony for orchestra

2021
/
Large Ensemble

Details

Category

Large Ensemble

instrumentation

for orchestra

duration

25 minutes

commissioned by

premiered by

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I. MOTHERBOXX CONNECTION

Where are all the black people in comics?” This is a question posed by the creative duo, Black Kirby (John Jennings and Stacey Robinson). Based heavily in Afrofuturism, Black Kirby’s characters show black people as heroes using ancient customs and futurist motifs from the African and African American diaspora. This piece is inspired by the many heroic characters found in the work of Black Kirby, but mainly Motherboxx Connection. (Black Kirby: In Search of the Motherboxx Connection)

According to scholar, Regina N. Bradley, Motherboxx Connection is “a pun on Jack Kirby’s motherbox, a living computer connected to the world, the Motherboxx too is a living computer with a heightened awareness of racial and sexual discourses surrounding the black body. The motherboxx is the technological equivalent of the “mother land” in the black diaspora imagination. She is where black identities merge and depart.”

To represent the power and intelligence of the motherboxx, I have composed a short fast moving musical idea that constantly weaves in and throughout the orchestra. A majestic, fanfare-like also provides the overall mood of strength and heroism. I imagine the motherboxx as an all-knowing entity that is aware of the multi-faceted aspects of blackness.

II. FLYING AFRICANS

Once all Africans could fly, but lost their ability once they crossed the Atlantic Ocean as enslaved humans. This story tells how one African maintained the ability and secretly passed the gift to others. The Negro Spiritual, “Steal Away” is referenced in the woodwinds, as well as the the cello section while the upper strings hover effortlessly in the higher register.

Steal away, steal away, steal away to Jesus Steal away, steal away home
I ain't got long to stay here

III.GO DOWN MOSES (Let my People Go)

The Jewish biblical story of the Plagues of Egypt resonated with the enslaved and they created songs that related to this story of bondage. While the horrific plagues that swept across Egypt are compelling in and of itself, the focus of this piece is

recounted from the perspective of the stubborn Pharaoh, who unwillingly loosens his grip on the enslaved people. Pharaoh"s hardened heart is conveyed through two sharp, accented chords. The spirit of God, represented by light, heavenly, metallic sounds from the percussion, signal the beginning of each new plague. Frogs, pestilence, sickness and are not enough to break

the Pharaoh"s will. It is only with the !Angel of Death”, which takes the life of Pharaoh"s first-born child, represented by dark, brooding harmonies, that he relents in despair. The orchestral texture grows thinner and thinner as Pharaoh loathes in emotional anguish. The once prideful Pharaoh is now broken down to a powerless whimper. I use the Negro Spiritual, “Let My People Go (Go Down Moses)” as a musical framework throughout this movement.

Go down Moses

Way down in Egypt land
Tell ol’ Pharaoh to
Let my people go!
When Israel was in Egypt land Let my people go!

Oppressed so hard they could not stand Let my people go!

IV. JOHN HENRY

The story of John Henry is traditionally told through the work song, each with wide-ranging and varying lyrics. The well- known narrative ballad of "John Henry" is essentially the battle between man versus machine. Enslaved/prisoners would would usually sing the story more slowly and deliberately, often with a pulsating beat suggestive of swinging the hammer. These songs usually contain the lines "This old hammer killed John Henry / but it won't kill me." Writer Scott Nelson explains that:

“... workers managed their labor by setting a "stint," or pace, for it. Men who violated the stint were shunned ... Here was a song that told you what happened to men who worked too fast: they died ugly deaths; their entrails fell on the ground. You sang the song slowly, you worked slowly, you guarded your life, or you died.”

-Carlos Simon

cOMPONENT divider
I. MOTHERBOXX CONNECTION

Where are all the black people in comics?” This is a question posed by the creative duo, Black Kirby (John Jennings and Stacey Robinson). Based heavily in Afrofuturism, Black Kirby’s characters show black people as heroes using ancient customs and futurist motifs from the African and African American diaspora. This piece is inspired by the many heroic characters found in the work of Black Kirby, but mainly Motherboxx Connection. (Black Kirby: In Search of the Motherboxx Connection)

According to scholar, Regina N. Bradley, Motherboxx Connection is “a pun on Jack Kirby’s motherbox, a living computer connected to the world, the Motherboxx too is a living computer with a heightened awareness of racial and sexual discourses surrounding the black body. The motherboxx is the technological equivalent of the “mother land” in the black diaspora imagination. She is where black identities merge and depart.”

To represent the power and intelligence of the motherboxx, I have composed a short fast moving musical idea that constantly weaves in and throughout the orchestra. A majestic, fanfare-like also provides the overall mood of strength and heroism. I imagine the motherboxx as an all-knowing entity that is aware of the multi-faceted aspects of blackness.

II. FLYING AFRICANS

Once all Africans could fly, but lost their ability once they crossed the Atlantic Ocean as enslaved humans. This story tells how one African maintained the ability and secretly passed the gift to others. The Negro Spiritual, “Steal Away” is referenced in the woodwinds, as well as the the cello section while the upper strings hover effortlessly in the higher register.

Steal away, steal away, steal away to Jesus Steal away, steal away home
I ain't got long to stay here

III.GO DOWN MOSES (Let my People Go)

The Jewish biblical story of the Plagues of Egypt resonated with the enslaved and they created songs that related to this story of bondage. While the horrific plagues that swept across Egypt are compelling in and of itself, the focus of this piece is

recounted from the perspective of the stubborn Pharaoh, who unwillingly loosens his grip on the enslaved people. Pharaoh"s hardened heart is conveyed through two sharp, accented chords. The spirit of God, represented by light, heavenly, metallic sounds from the percussion, signal the beginning of each new plague. Frogs, pestilence, sickness and are not enough to break

the Pharaoh"s will. It is only with the !Angel of Death”, which takes the life of Pharaoh"s first-born child, represented by dark, brooding harmonies, that he relents in despair. The orchestral texture grows thinner and thinner as Pharaoh loathes in emotional anguish. The once prideful Pharaoh is now broken down to a powerless whimper. I use the Negro Spiritual, “Let My People Go (Go Down Moses)” as a musical framework throughout this movement.

Go down Moses

Way down in Egypt land
Tell ol’ Pharaoh to
Let my people go!
When Israel was in Egypt land Let my people go!

Oppressed so hard they could not stand Let my people go!

IV. JOHN HENRY

The story of John Henry is traditionally told through the work song, each with wide-ranging and varying lyrics. The well- known narrative ballad of "John Henry" is essentially the battle between man versus machine. Enslaved/prisoners would would usually sing the story more slowly and deliberately, often with a pulsating beat suggestive of swinging the hammer. These songs usually contain the lines "This old hammer killed John Henry / but it won't kill me." Writer Scott Nelson explains that:

“... workers managed their labor by setting a "stint," or pace, for it. Men who violated the stint were shunned ... Here was a song that told you what happened to men who worked too fast: they died ugly deaths; their entrails fell on the ground. You sang the song slowly, you worked slowly, you guarded your life, or you died.”

-Carlos Simon

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Carlos Simon