Fromm Players at Harvard 2021
In 2021, the Fromm Players at Harvard showcased performances and interviews curated by Anne Shreffler and Vijay Iyer. The performances featured works by Rebecca Saunders, Jeffrey Mumford, Dongryul Lee and Natasha Barrett, performed by violinist Miranda Cuckson, and pianist Conor Hanick, as well as works composed and performed by Yvette Jackson, Roscoe Mitchell, and Imani Uzuri. The entire first concert and Jackson's The Coding will remain available indefinitely.
The Fromm Players at Harvard present concerts of new music every year, curated by Harvard faculty members. Read more about the Fromm Players at Harvard.
Concert 1, April 16th, 2021
Co-curated by Anne Shreffler and Miranda Cuckson
A note from the curators
For the very first virtual Fromm concert, we are happy to present violinist Miranda Cuckson and pianist Conor Hanick in recital. The program features works by Natasha Barrett and Rebecca Saunders and world premieres of two solo violin works written especially for Miranda Cuckson: Dongryul Lee's A finite island in the infinite ocean, and Jeffrey Mumford's fleeting cycles of layered air. We invite you to undertake an exploratory journey for the mind and the senses and experience the varied sound worlds of this program—from the knife-edge timbres of the Saunders to evocations of far expanse and speed in the Lee and the Mumford, to the watery, luxuriant electronics of the Barrett.
The prerecorded concert streamed on April 16, 2021 at 8 pm Eastern Daylight Time, and will be available indefinitely after that date. Video interviews with all four composers, as well as one with our two featured performers, will offer additional information and perspectives about the works to be performed. The program notes were researched and written by students in Anne Shreffler's seminar "Music of the Last Ten Years" (Spring 2021).
We wish to thank:
Harvard's Media Production Services, especially Jeffrey Valade, Mike Mayo, and Johnny DeKam, for the preparation of the concert video and interview videos. Natasha Barrett, Dongryul Lee, Jeffrey Mumford, and Rebecca Saunders for their willingness to record the interviews. Grace Edgar, Enrique Marquez, and Nancy Shafman from the Department of Music for all their help in organizing the many facets of this project. Ryan Caruso, Charles Hagaman, and the video team at National Sawdust, for their recording and filming of the concert. Yamaha Artists Services, for providing the piano.
- Miranda Cuckson and Anne Shreffler, co-curators
Rebecca Saunders, Duo for violin and piano (1996/1999)
Jeffrey Mumford, fleeting cycles of layered air for solo violin (2020, world premiere)
Dongryul Lee, A finite island in the infinite ocean (2020, world premiere)
II. A finite island in the infinite ocean
Natasha Barrett, Allure and Hoodwink for violin, piano, and electronics (2014)
Co-curator Anne Shreffler moderated a series of interviews with each of the four composers.
Concert 2, April 30th, 2021
Curated by Vijay Iyer
Music by Yvette Janine Jackson, Roscoe Mitchell, and Imani Uzuri
Yvette Janine Jackson’s Radio Opera Workshop presents The Coding
Yvette Janine Jackson, The Coding
Composition and video by Yvette Janine Jackson
Performed by Yvette Janine Jackson’s Radio Opera Workshop: Yvette Janine Jackson, piano, guitar, keyboards/synthesizer, composition, sound design, visual design, production; Tia Fuller, alto saxophone; Judith Hamann, violoncello; Davindar Singh, bass clarinet; Esperanza Spalding, double bass; Rajna Swaminathan, mrudangam; Taiga Ultan, flute and voice
Imani Uzuri, The Haunting of Cambridge (work in progress)
Composition, voices, tambourine, and experimental film by Imani Uzuri
Roscoe Mitchell, Five Compositions
Tech Ritter and the Megabytes
Clyde, a suite dedicated to the memory of the master drummer Clyde Stubblefield in five movements
2. "O'Cayz Corral"
3. "Café Montmartre"
4. "Monona Terrace"
5. "Memorial Union"
Step and Stride
Compositions by Roscoe Mitchell; video by Wendy L. Nelson
Performed by The Roscoe Mitchell Quartet: Roscoe Mitchell, woodwinds, percussion; Ambrose Akinmusire, trumpet; Junius Paul, bass, percussion; Vincent Davis, drums, percussion
Reading by Greg Tate
Panel discussion with Greg Tate, Yvette Janine Jackson, Imani Uzuri, Roscoe Mitchell, and Vijay Iyer
Yvette Janine Jackson’s Radio Opera Workshop presents The Coding
Yvette Janine Jackson introduces Radio Opera Workshop, an adaptive ensemble established to perform live radio operas. The Coding is a new series inspired by Samuel R. Delany’s Babel-17, a science fiction novel themed around language, perception, and behaviour. The Coding explores how language shapes our realities. The premiere performance features Jackson (synthesizer, composition, sound design, and video), Tia Fuller (alto saxophone), Judith Hamann (=cello), Davindar Singh (bass clarinet), Esperanza Spalding (double bass), Rajna Swaminathan (mrudangam), and Taiga Ultan (flute and voice). This project is made possible by a Live Arts Boston grant from the Boston Foundation.
The Coding is published by YJJ Music (ASCAP).
Imani Uzuri: The Haunting of Cambridge (work in progress)
Composition, voices, tambourine, and experimental film by Imani Uzuri
This is the first exploratory iteration of vocalist, composer, and experimental ethnographer Imani Uzuri's new work The Haunting of Cambridge, which interrogates the documented and envisioned lives of enslaved Black people-children and adults, known and unknown, named and unnamed within the Cambridge, MA area such as Venus, Titus, Juba and Bilhah, who were enslaved on Harvard's campus (between 1725-1769); Mother Abba with daughter Cuba and siblings, (and eventually Cuba's children with husband Tony) all enslaved at Vassall House starting in 1739 (now known as Longfellow House) on Brattle street; Father and daughter Papa Renty and Delia who were photographed in 1850 as part of a university-led "experiment"; and also including accused Black and Indigenous enslaved "witch" Tituba (a teenager) of nearby Salem who was jailed in Cambridge for thirteen months during the 1692-1693 trials.
This project is an ephemeral remembrance ritual to sonically and visually render evident the embedded yet often sublimated cruel legacy of enslavement in Cambridge and to honor and conjure imagined maroonage of these precious beloved Black ancestors.
The Haunting of Cambridge is published by Imani Uzuri Music (ASCAP).
Roscoe Mitchell: Five Compositions
Tech Ritter and the Megabytes (2004) was inspired by listening to one of Clyde Stubblefield’s drum samples and my memories of watching Tex Ritter movies at the Saturday Matinees at the NRA Movie Theater in Chicago in the 1950s.
Phobos (2021) is the larger moon orbiting Mars.
Clyde (2021) is a suite dedicated to the memory of the master drummer Clyde Stubblefield. Its five movements are titled after venues past and present in Madison, Wisconsin. "Bunky's" is a club in Madison, Wisconsin where I premiered my Three Band Extravaganza. Clyde Stubblefield was the drummer for all three bands. Band one was a Blues Band. Band two included some standards—“My Foolish Heart” played as an extremely slow ballad, and the Bobby Timmons composition titled “Moanin’.” Band three was my own original compositions. I performed at “O’Cayz Corral” in a quartet with Joan Wildman, piano; Hans Sturm, double bass; and Clyde Stubblefield, drums. "Café Montmartre" and "Monona Terrace" both hosted performances with the Clyde Stubblefield Blues Band. "Memorial Union" is where I presented and conducted a Big Band concert that played compositions by Muhal Richard Abrams. Clyde Stubblefield and Steve McCall were the two drummers for this concert.
Deimos (2021) is the smaller moon orbiting Mars.
- R.M., 2021
Videography by Shanna Sordahl, Gene Nemirovsky, Zack Sievers and Wendy L. Nelson. Audio Recording by Shanna Sordahl, Gene Nemirovsky, and Wendy L. Nelson. Video Editing and Sound Mix by Wendy L. Nelson.Mitchell's works are published by Art Ensemble of Chicago Publishing Co. (ASCAP).
Yvette Janine Jackson’s Radio Opera Workshop
Yvette Janine Jackson is a composer and sound installation artist focused on bringing attention to historical events and social issues through her radio operas. Recent projects include I’ve Ever Seen for vibraphone commissioned by MATA Festival, Fear Is Their Alibi for soprano, bassoon, and electronics commissioned for the Prototype Festival’s MODULATION series co-presented with LA Opera, Carolina Performing Arts, and Opera Omaha; her album Freedom released in January by the Fridman Gallery; and Remembering 1619 for violin and tape presented by Teju Cole and Orchestra of St. Luke’s. Yvette is an assistant professor in Creative Practice and Critical Inquiry in the Department of Music and teaches for the Theater, Dance & Media program at Harvard University.
Tia Fuller is a recording artist, composer, and bandleader active in the worlds of jazz, pop, R&B, and more, and a full-time professor at the Berklee College of Music. As a solo artist, Fuller has released five widely acclaimed albums with her quartet: the self-released Pillar of Strength (2005), plus Healing Space (2007); Decisive Steps (2010); Angelic Warrior (2012), and the Grammy-nominated Diamond Cut (2018), all on Mack Avenue Records. As a collaborator, Fuller has appeared with Terri Lyne Carrington to perform her Grammy-winning The Mosaic Project and Money Jungle: Provocative in Blue; served as assistant musical director for Esperanza Spalding’s Radio Music Society tour; and recorded and toured with Dianne Reeves for her Grammy-winning Beautiful Life album. She has also performed with such luminaries as the Ralph Peterson Septet, Rufus Reid Quintet, Wycliff Gordan Septet, T.S. Monk Sextet, the Duke Ellington Orchestra, the Nancy Wilson Jazz Orchestra, the Jon Faddis Jazz Orchestra, Beyoncé, Chaka Khan, Ledisi, Kelly Rowland, Jay-Z, Jill Scott, Patti LaBelle, Sheila E, Valerie Simpson, Dionne Warwick, Janelle Monáe, Patrice Rushen, Erykah Badu, and the late Aretha Franklin, Nancy Wilson, and Geri Allen. She was most recently heard on the Oscar-winning score to the film Soul.
Judith Hamann is a cellist and performer/composer from Birraranga (Melbourne), Australia. She has “long been recognised as one of Australia’s foremost contemporary-music cellists” (RealTime Arts). Judith’s performance practice stretches across various genres encompassing elements of improvised, contemporary classical, experimental, and popular music. Currently her work is focused on "Materialities of Realisation" (a discourse based project with Charles Curtis), an examination of expressions and manifestations of "shaking" in her solo performance practice, and a collection of new works for cello and humming.
Davindar Singh is a baritone saxophonist, PhD student, and Presidential Scholar and Natterson-Horowitz Fellow in Ethnomusicology at Harvard University. His performance and recording credits include Christopher Guest, Yorgui Loeffler, Harvey Diamond, McCoy Tyner, Mario Diaz de Leon, Derek Hurst, Andrea Pensado, Matmos (kind of), Billy Hart (kind of), several metal bands, and a plethora of commercial music contexts. He currently researches the political economy and music of Punjabi trucking.
Esperanza Spalding (also known as irma nejando, or, i.e.) is a being who has grown to recognize love in the abstract and aspirational, and is now fully dedicated to learning how she can serve and embody actualized love through honor for and receptivity to, fellow humans, teachers, and practitioners of various regenerative arts. bass, piano, composition, performance, voice and lyrics are tools and disciplines she is engaged in deeply to cultivate her own channel for transmitting care and beauty through vibration/sound/presence. she has written an opera with Wayne Shorter slated for premier in Fall 2021 // she is currently developing a mockumentary in collaboration with brontë velez and San Francisco Symphony // researching and developing liberation rituals in jazz and black dance // and continuing a lifelong collaboration with practitioners in various fields relating to music, healing and cognition to develop music with enhanced therapeutic potential. she is presently paid by Harvard University to co-create and learn with students enrolled there, working on developing creative practices that serve the restoration of people and land.
Rajna Swaminathan is an acclaimed mrudangam (a barrel-shaped South Indian drum) artist, composer, and scholar. Rajna has been described as “a vital new voice” (Pop Matters), creating “music of gravity and rigor. . . yet its overall effect is accessible and uplifting” (Wall Street Journal). In her music and research, she explores the undercurrents of rhythmic experience and emergent textures in collective improvisation. She is currently completing a PhD in Creative Practice and Critical Inquiry in the Department of Music at Harvard University. Her ensemble RAJAS has been described as “unlike any other on the scene” (New York Times), having “wedded beauty by courting chaos, with the methods of loose-knit latter-day jazz at the service of a recognizably South-Asian melody and pulse” (Financial Times). Rajna released her debut album with RAJAS, Of Agency and Abstraction on Biophilia Records, 2019. Her recent commissions include Chamber Music America New Jazz Works (2019–2021), LA Phil Green Umbrella Series (2020), and a composer fellowship with the Gabriela Lena Frank Creative Academy of Music (2020).
Taiga Ultan is a multidisciplinary artist who began as a street performer in New York City. Throughout her creative journey, the concept of art as evidence has been a driving force evolving into a practice in which the process is the product—this has taken many forms including extensive recordings, imagings and films. Currently Taiga is materializing a “covid-proof” project under the guise of a new persona.
Imani Uzuri, raised in rural North Carolina, is an award-winning vocalist, composer, librettist, and improviser called “a postmodernist Bessie Smith” by the Village Voice. She composes, performs, and creates interdisciplinary works often dealing with themes of ancestral memory, magical realism, liminality, Black American vernacular culture, spirituality and landscape. Her ritual performance Wild Cotton was recently cited as one “with subtlety and vision” by the New York Times. As a Jerome Foundation Composer/Sound Artist Fellow Uzuri made international sojourns in support of her forthcoming ritual opera celebrating the holy iconography of the Black Madonna. Uzuri has been commissioned by Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, The Ford Foundation and her recent Chamber Music America New Jazz Works commission She Knows Suite premiered at Lincoln Center Atrium in February 2020. Uzuri received her MFA from Goddard College Vermont and her M.A. in African American Studies from Columbia University. Uzuri was a 2019–2020 Harvard University W. E. B. DuBois Hutchins Center Fellow in support of her forthcoming experimental chamber opera Hush Arbor (The Opera), which has been commissioned by The Momentary.
The Roscoe Mitchell Quartet
Roscoe Mitchell is an internationally-renowned musician, composer, and innovator. His virtuosic resurrection of overlooked woodwind instruments spanning extreme registers, visionary solo performances, and assertion of a hybrid compositional/improvisational paradigm have placed him at the forefront of contemporary music. Mitchell is a founding member of the Art Ensemble of Chicago, the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), and the Trio Space. He is also distinguished as the founder of the Creative Arts Collective, The Roscoe Mitchell Sextet & Quartet, The Roscoe Mitchell Art Ensemble, The Sound Ensemble, The New Chamber Ensemble, and the Note Factory. His instrumental expertise includes the gamut of the saxophone and recorder families, clarinets, flute, piccolo, and the transverse flute in addition to his elaborate invention, the Percussion Cage. His oeuvre boasts hundreds of albums and original works, ranging from passionate, forceful improvisations to ornate orchestral music. His vast discography includes Sound (1966, 5-star review in DownBeat Magazine), People in Sorrow (1969, with the AEOC), Nonaah (1977, DownBeat Magazine Record of the Year), Bells for the South Side and Discussions (both on the New York Times‘ lists of 2017’s best albums). Mitchell’s honors include the Doris Duke Artist Award and Audience Development Fund, a CMA Presenting Jazz grant, The Shifting Foundation Grant, and grants from The National Endowment for the Arts and Meet the Composer. In 2020 he was named an NEA Jazz Master.
During his 15-year career, Ambrose Akinmusire has paradoxically situated himself in both the center and the periphery of jazz, most recently emerging in classical and hip hop circles. He’s on a perpetual quest for new paradigms, weaving inspiration from other genres, arts, and life in general into compositions that are as poetic and graceful as they are bold and unflinching. His unorthodox approach to sound and composition make him a regular on critics polls and have earned him grants and commissions from the Doris Duke Foundation, the MAP Fund, the Kennedy Center, The Berlin Jazz Festival and the Monterey Jazz Festival. Born and raised in Oakland, California, Akinmusire was asked to join Steve Coleman’s Five Elements when he was just a 19-year-old student at the Manhattan School of Music. Akinmusire went on to attend the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz in Los Angeles, where he studied with Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter and Terence Blanchard. In 2007 Akinmusire won the prestigious Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition. He moved back to New York and began performing with the likes of Vijay Iyer, Aaron Parks, Esperanza Spalding and Jason Moran. He was soon signed to Blue Note Records, which has released five of his widely acclaimed and influential albums, most recently 2020’s On the Tender Spot of Every Calloused Moment.
Vincent Davis, born in Chicago, is an internationally acclaimed jazz percussionist, composer and teacher. The seed of music was planted in Davis early, growing up in a home filled with the influences of rock, jazz and gospel. In 1979 Davis left Chicago to attend the Milwaukee Conservatory of Music, where his love of jazz and skill at drumming further bloomed and flourished. It was here that Davis met his mentor Manty Ellis. Davis trained and studied with Ellis, primarily focusing on Jazz trap drumming. Since 1985, Davis has belonged to groups of Roscoe Mitchell as his Note Factory and its trio with Harrison Bankhead and Jaribu Shahid, with whom he also toured several times in Europe and Asia and performed at international festivals such as the North Sea Jazz Festival. He is also on Mitchell's album Songs in the Wind and This Dance Is for Steve McCall as well as sound recordings of Jodie Christian and Scott Fields and founded the ensemble Laws of Motion. He also worked with Matthew Shipp, Arthur Blythe, David Murray, Joseph Jarman, Marilyn Crispell, Von Freeman, Hamid Drake, Corey Wilkes, Ed Wilkerson, and many other musicians, on tours and in dozens of recording sessions.
Junius Paul, composer, bandleader and acoustic and electric bassist, born in Chicago and raised in the Chicago area, is a graduate of St. Xavier University (Chicago). An internationally established bassist, some of Junius' performance and/or recording credits include The Art Ensemble Of Chicago, numerous configurations of ensembles led by Roscoe Mitchell, Famoudou Don Moye Sun Percussion Summit, AACM Small Ensemble & Big Band, Kahil El’Zabar, Makaya McCraven, The Fred Anderson Trio, Georgia Anne Muldrow, Jeff Parker, Vincent Davis & Percussion Plus, Dee Alexander, The Curtis Fuller Quintet, Oliver Lake, Willie Pickens, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Marquis Hill, KRS-One and Donald Byrd among others. In 2013–14, Junius served as music department faculty for Trinity Christian College (Palos Heights, IL). In 2017, Junius was the featured artist and honoree for his alma mater, St. Xavier University’s Jazz Weekend. Junius' debut album, Ism, was released in November 2019 via International Anthem Recording Company to critical acclaim, receiving a 4 star rating from Downbeat Magazine and an 8 out of 10 rating from Pitchfork.
Greg Tate is a writer, musician and cultural provocateur who thrives on Harlem's Sugar Hill. His books include the acclaimed essay collection Flyboy in the Buttermilk, Flyboy 2: The Greg Tate Reader, Midnight Lightning: Jimi Hendrix, and The Black Experience, Brooklyn Kings: New York City’s Black Bikers (w/ photographer Martin Dixon), and Everything but the Burden: What White People Are Taking from Black Culture. Tate co-edited the museum catalogue Writing the Future: Basquiat and the Hiphop Generation for MFA Boston and also collaborated on the exhibition of the same name with MFA curator Liz Munsell. He is currently finishing work on a project about the radical Black presence in post-modern culture and politics for publication by Farrar, Strauss & Giroux in 2021. Tate has been a Visiting Professor at Columbia, Yale, Brown, San Francisco State, Princeton University, and Williams College. He was a staff writer at the Village Voice from 1987 to 2004, and his writings on culture and politics have also been published in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Artforum, Rolling Stone, and VIBE. Since 1999 Tate, a co-founder of the Black Rock Coalition, has led the Conducted Improv big band Burnt Sugar The Arkestra Chamber who tour internationally and have released 17 albums on their own Avant Groidd imprint. In 2019 the group celebrated their twentieth anniversary with shows at Lincoln Center, Brooklyn Museum and the legendary Apollo Theatre. Tate is also co-leader, with saxophonist Avram Fefer, of the electroacoustic quartet, Rivers On Mars, whose debut album, Deja VooDoo, was released on Ropeadope Records in 2018.