While I long to add my voice to the righteous clamor of now, I personally believe that this medium is not the platform for that voice to have much effect at all and have directed it elsewhere. However, since most of you know me as an artist or musician, I will comment on the positive fact that much has been said in the music world recently about incorporating works by composers of color into the classical or concert canon. This is absolutely the right movement, and long overdue, but I fear a slyly diversional emphasis will be placed by behemoth institutions on music by non-white people that conforms to the standard of the white canon, soothing the discomfort of recognizing white privilege with familiarity, hailing the spread of the genius of Western principles across the globe. People of color or otherwise do not need to be a mirror to reflect the beauty ideals of the fading imperial world, though they may respect these paradigms on a purely aesthetic or intellectual level. Instead they should be valued as their own individual artists with their own capacity for innovation and invention, not simply as artisans merely capable of living up to standards set by, frankly, white men from distant centuries. If their brilliance lies within a genre sculpted and defined by the western imperial complex, then it is an example not of the colonization of non-European arts but of the creolization of those western arts. This is beautiful. However, we must make sure that this creolity (described in an essay by George Lewis and using the words of Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak as “the delexicalization of the foreign”) does not become co-opted and transformed into impotent, corporate “diversity” by the buzzword-obsessed elite. Equality does not end with percentage increases. I’d like to quote Lewis further:
“Although pursuit of greater numerical representation (or even ‘balance’, however defined) is desirable, this alone is unlikely to bring full subjecthood to women composers or composers of color in the long run. Subjecthood and membership are reflected not only in numerical representation, but also in the circulation of sounds, culture, histories, and ideas. Conceptual migration (or even conceptual nomadism) would create a new curatorial subject for contemporary music that can directly conceive of ascribing kinship, membership, and subjecthood to these new composers and their forebears, creating a new, creolized usable past for new music.”
We must demand aesthetic and philosophic ingenuity from our institutions, not just homogeneity within a more diverse coalition of proponents. As my good friend Sarrah Bushara, a brilliant and ingenious artist (and yes, a black woman), put it, we must normalize, not ghettoize. And it is with great pride that I announce that Sarrah is also my artistic partner in a new endeavor, ~ [pronounced two]. ~ is a performance art duo that focuses on works from the experimental canon as well as original composed theater, Fluxus-inspired text pieces, interpretive dance, performance art, amateur films, and events. ~ will be based online currently, and when live performance resumes, between Boston and Philadelphia.
Our first piece, Walking Alone at Night, was premiered at the Curtis Institute of Music’s Field Concert Hall in March, and our first online piece went public on YouTube last month. It makes me very happy to share these pieces with you, as well as many pieces to come. Please like our page and stay tuned!