My very first collaboration was in 1995, just 1 year as a professional musician working in “the Real World” while attending Howard University part-time. It was with The Washington Ballet, co-writing a score with pianist Maritri for choreographer Lynn Cote’s piece, Nexus. Shortly thereafter we were invited back, this time accompanied by djembeist Marshall Johnson in 1997 to work with South African choreographer Ntsikelelo “Boize” Cekwana to create a piece entitled Savannah. Both Nexus and Savannah debuted at The Kennedy Center in Washington, DC in their respective years. In 1998, The Washington Ballet company traveled first to New York City to present Savannah at The Joyce Theater, and later that same year, debuted the work in Johannesburg at the Wits Theater.
Since then, I’ve had the good fortune of collaborating with several incredibly talented choreographers, playwrights and directors, and of course other fine musicians/composers…here are a few examples of recent projects I’ve worked on:
I LOVE MY HAIR WHEN IT'S GOOD: & THEN AGAIN WHEN IT'S DEFIANT AND IMPRESSIVE
by Chaunesti Webb
THE PROJECT: Compose an original soundscape reminiscent of black radio (record players, tape decks, 8-tracks) spanning the 1970's - mid-1990's. Create interludes which expose palpable emotion and serve as conduits from one scene/circumstance to the next. Create motifs for different characters which express generation, spirit, confidence, timidity, and other attributes that will present themselves throughout the course of the script.
Genevieve and Moni grew up together in a family of African American women – playing double-dutch, chasing fireflies, sharing the pain of the hot comb – attempting to make sense of the world through the complicated relationship they have with their hair. The 2012 smash hit returns to Manbites Dog for a special encore presentation.
“Five Stars” – Indy Week
"Economics, domestic violence and education will all play a part in this. But the largest agents will include a double bind hardly limited to African-American families of a recent era in the South, in which the young are expected to make their family and community proud, but still not "get above their raising." Webb's characters are also subject to generation-spanning—but still dysfunctional—gender roles in which a woman's worth is measured mostly by her self-sacrifice, if not her outright martyrdom."
– Byron Woods, INDY WEEK
JUST ANOTHER LYNCHING: AN AMERICAN HORROR STORY
by Tarish “Jeghetto” Pipkins
THE PROJECT: In less than one week, using only cello, vocals and a loop station, compose the score for a 20-minute puppet show depicting the story of a white woman in a dysfunctional marriage who accuses an innocent black man (loving husband, father) of beating and raping her in order to protect her abusive husband.
”Jeghetto gives life. To us mortals that’s magic, but when you ask him to explain how he does it, he can't. He too calls it magic. Even in puppetry, life is a mystery. He will bring them to life in "Just Another Lynching: An American Horror Story…" — Antony Nganga, THE HERALD SUN
Southern trees bear a strange fruit
Blood on the leaves, and blood at the root
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.
Pastoral scene of the Gallant South
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth
Scent of magnolia, sweet and fresh
And the sudden smell of burning flesh
Here is the fruit for the crows to pluck
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck
For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop --
Here is a strange and bitter crop.
Published as poem, "Bitter Fruit" (1937) by Abel Meeropol
Lyrics & Melody as "Strange Fruit" by Lewis Allen (pseudonym)
CULTURE MILL PRESENTS: MAKE / BELIEVE
An Immersive Performance Experience
by Tommy Noonan & Murielle Elizeon
THE PROJECT: Drawing loosely on historical NC Commerce traditions such as tobacco auctions, MAKE / BELIEVE playfully imagines the value of a song, a dance, a poem or a story as a commodity to be bid upon, bought, sold and traded. In a series of communal and individual vignettes, MAKE / BELIEVE ultimately asks audiences to consider the value of artistic experiences in their experiences in their daily lives, communities and larger society.
THE AMAZING ADVENTURES of GRACE MAY B. BROWN
by Andrea E. Woods/SOULOWORKS
THE PROJECT: Utilizing text and lyrics provided by the playwright, compose a sound tapestry to be woven into the storytelling quilt representing characters of different generations and life experiences. Influences - folk and roots music, spirituals, childhood stomp-cheers and hand games. Use video footage and descriptions of scene, tone, atmosphere to create soundtrack remotely (Las Vegas to Durham).
"The Amazing Adventures of Grace May B. Brown,” features dance, music, singing, narration, folk art and photographic images. “I call the work a contemporary praise dance/folk performance because it uses dance, song, spirituality, music and narration as multilayered storytelling,” Woods writes."
– Susan Broili, THE HERALD-SUN
"SURRENDER" for SUDDENLY I SEE
by Kristin Taylor
THE PROJECT: Compose a 5-minute piece, separated into three "phases" (movements): i - Discovery; ii - Engagement; iii - Surrender. Execute creation process in different time zones (Kristin & Okorie: EST; Shana: PST). Create entire score without seeing the choreography.
"No dancer can match Kristin Taylor, Simoneau's senior company member for purely joyful movement in her self-choreographed solo, Suddenly I See, Taylor uses her powerful, compact body to explore and carve her way through space in curves and explosions. She too uses original music, this one composed by Shana Tucker (and Okorie Johnson)." – Lynne Felder, WINSTON-SALEM JOURNAL