notes from a composer-in-residence june and july 2015

aesthetics in black

talking black music, protest and aesthetics with the likes of mark anthony neal, shana redmond, robin kelley, guthrie ramsey, gayle murchison and tamara levitz was a special moment this june. hosted by the hammer museum in westwood, los angeles, we meandered our way over history, colour, identity, art and politics exploring the threads that bind cultural expression in south africa with what’s unfolding in the united states of america.

we did this around themes examined in my new opera, “the struggle is my life”, as a prism by which to reflect on questions of diversity and transformation (and transcendence) in the practice and performance of opera as a musical art form.

here’s a link to the entire web stream of the event broadcast from the hammer:

i intend to spend more time in california later this year workshopping “the struggle” and other new music theatre works to deepen the thinking around what were are, for the moment, calling “black opera”.
i’ve been on a drive to meet conductors, singers, orchestral players and improvising musicians working in the music departments at uc irvine, ucla and bringing them together with practitioners who inhabit a somewhat different take on the act of music-making in the popular sphere – community institutions like ‘the world stage’ in leimert park, south central l.a.

aesthetics in white samba

extrapolating further the theme of making radical art at street level i returned to sao paolo, brazil, to carry out a week-long intervention in protest-making in the global south together with, among others, ilu oba – a group of women who perform candomble rhythms usually forbidden to females in the yoruba tradition. packing djembes, dun duns, shekere and our loud voices, a few score of us took to the streets of bom retiro – the jewish-korean-bolivian quarter – to sing songs to chango, the orixa sometimes associated with making war, and forcing open any locked gates.

we made so much noise that at some point local security guards actually tried to shut us out and stop us crossing the parcue da luz – a public park. they managed only to slow us down though, since eventually the gates were thrown open.

neo muyanga, WISER/UCHRI composer-in-residence, 2015