ABOUT THE PROJECT
The project is a three-evening composition by Wadada Leo Smith, entitled Ten Freedom Summers, performed by Southwest Chamber Music and the Golden Quartet. This large multimovement work is inspired in general by the activity of the civil rights movement from 1954- 1964. The composition is in suite form and reflects the spiritual condition and attitude surrounding many incidents that changed American social history.
Mr. Smith has composed Ten Freedom Summers
, a three-evening cycle for the combined forces of his ensemble, the Golden Quartet, and Southwest Chamber Music. Mr. Smith writes that:
"I was born in Leland, Mississippi in 1941 and had a first-hand view of the social importance, and the need for a voter registration campaign. It would become a vital tool in achieving the social and political justice for Americans. My inspiration comes from literature and news information about the decade between 1954-1964 concerning the civil rights movement in the United States of America. Over the years I thought that I would compose a tribute to that decade, much in the same way that August Wilson's plays comment about the African-American experience in America, but through musical composition. The music of Ten Freedom Summers will be a psychological interpretation of the events pertinent to the struggle for civil rights, not a pictorial or cinematic treatment that musically describes each event or situation.”
The trajectory of the three-part concert experience is:
Concert One: America Part 1 & Part 2; Emmett Till: Defiant and Fearless; Fannie Lou Hamer & the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, 1964; Rosa Parks; The Freedom Riders Ride; and The Washington DC Memorial Wall.
Concert Two: Dred Scott 1857; Democracy; Buzzsaw: The Myth of the Free Press; Al Hajj Malik Al Shabazz & The People of the Shahada; September 11, 2001; Medgar Evers: A Love Voice of a Thousand Year Journey: Liberty & Justice
Concert Three: Brown v. Board of Education 1954; Little Rock Nine 1957; John F. Kennedy’s New Frontier & the Space Age, 1960; Freedom Summer 1964; LBJ Civil Rights Act 1964; and Martin Luther King, Jr.: Memphis, The Prophecy.
Mr. Smith completed the composition in June 2011. Smith divides the players into three ensemble groups: members of the Golden Quartet of trumpet, piano, double bass and drums; one Southwest group of 2 violins, viola, cello and double bass; and a third Southwest group of flute, clarinet, harp and percussion. Jeff von der Schmidt of Southwest Chamber Music will conduct and coordinate these three separate ensembles
The world premiere performances celebrating Southwest Chamber Music's 25,th anniversary are scheduled for October 28, 29 and 30 at the REDCAT Theater in Walt Disney Concert Hall. Southwest will develop and implement an outreach program in collaboration with Facing History and Ourselves for educational and community events in Southern California that will engage new audiences through our established Project MUSE in-school concerts and through engagement of the major African-American churches, the NAACP and other civil rights organizations.
The composer will also participate in pre-concert talks, educational programs, community events and open rehearsals. The population served by this project will be audiences, artists, college students, and school children in Southern California. Our programs serve over 12,000 people each year, and our geographic impact includes audiences from throughout the state, with most from L.A. County. School programs reach children aged 10-18 as well as college students, and selections from the new work will be presented in our education and community outreach programs. When Mr. Smith participated in Project MUSE in 1998-1999, he received more letters from the students than any other composer in the history of this program.
Ten Freedom Summers is supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, the MAP Fund, the James Irvine and the Clarence E. Heller Charitable Foundations. Chamber Music America and the Doris Duke Foundation commissioned "America" for the Golden Quartet, which inspires the opening of Ten Freedom Summers.
This commission and performances of Ten Freedom Summers continues a long-term relationship between Southwest and composer/trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith that began in 1998. Mr. Smith has to date written three works for Southwest Chamber Music: "Grand Oak Trees at Dawn," "Bardsdale," and String Quartet No. 3 "Black Church: A First World Gathering of the Spirit." All these works were recorded between 1998 and 2000 and released on the Cambria Master Recordings label. In March 2009 we revived Black Church and began discussing with Mr. Smith a commission for our 25th anniversary season in 2011-2012. The result is the inspiring threeconcert cycle of Ten Freedom Summers.
ABOUT THE COMPOSER AND PERFORMERS
WADADA LEO SMITH is a composer, leader of the Golden Quartet, trumpeter and multi-instrumentalist, and improviser. He has been active in the creative contemporary music field for over forty years. His systemic music language Ankhrasmation is significant in his development as an artist and educator. Mr. Smith's music philosophy Notes (8 Pieces) Source a New. World Music: Creative Music has been published by Kiom Press, translated and published in Japan by Zen-On Music Company Ltd.. In 1981 Notes was translated into Italian and published by Nistri-Litschi Editori. Mr. Smith's awards and commissions include: Fellow of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, Other Minds residency and "Taif", a string quartet commission, Fellow of the Jurassic Foundation, FONT (Festival of New Trumpet) Award of Recognition, Jazz Journalists Association Jazz Award, Islamic World Arts Initiative of Arts International, Fellow of the Civitela Foundation, Fellow at the Atlantic Center for the Arts, "Third Culture Copenhagen" in Denmark, Meet the Composer/Lila Wallace- Reader's Digest Commissioning Program (1996), Asian Cultural Council Grantee to Japan, New York Foundation on the Arts Fellowship in Music, Numerous Meet the Composer Grants and NEA Music Grants. He has taught at the University of New Haven (1975-'76), the Creative Music Studio in Woodstock, NY (1975-'78), and Bard College (1987-'93). He is currently a faculty member at The Herb Alpert School of Music at California Institute of the Arts. He is the director of the African-American Improvisational Music program, and is a member of ASCAP, Chamber Music America, and the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians.
The composer writes: “I was born in and grew up in segregated Mississippi and experienced the conditions which made it imperative for an activist movement for equality. It was in that same environment that I had my first dreams of becoming a composer and performer. My first composition was composed at the age of 12.
Over the last sixteen years I began to compose a tribute to the civil rights movement. The music inspired and centered on the activities of three decades in American history from 1948-1968, much in the same way that August Wilson's plays comment on ten decades of the African- American experience in America, but through musical composition with improvisation. In composing Ten Freedom Summers I have fulfilled one of my major dreams. And, doing the research for this composition collection, my life has become richer, full of new information, and with deep inspiration concerning those men and women who changed our social history for the good of humanity.”
GRAMMY Award-Winner SOUTHWEST CHAMBER MUSIC is celebrated for performing a diverse repertory at home and abroad. In recognition of our achievements, the U.S. State Department selected our ensemble to produce the 2010 Ascending Dragon Festival and Cultural Exchange, the largest cultural exchange between Vietnam and the U.S. in the history of the two nations, which featured 17 world and U.S. premieres of works by U.S. and Vietnamese composers. Mark Swed of the L.A Times traveled with the ensemble to Vietnam, posting numerous articles from Hanoi and Saigon as well as in L.A. Wall Street Journal-Asia, Harvard Business Review, Voice of America, CNN International, Pasadena Star News, and American Record Guide all created important stories. In 2009, Southwest Chamber Music toured to Mexico, representing the United States at the Guadalajara FIL Arts Festival, an arts festival produced alongside the world's largest Spanish book fair. Sponsored by the NEA and L.A. Cultural Affairs Department, the ensemble reunited with the Tambuco Percussion Ensemble of Mexico City. In May 2007 Southwest performed at the UNAM Center in Mexico City with a cycle of 5 concerts of the complete chamber works of Carlos Chavez, previously recorded by the ensemble and Tambuco. The four volume set received two Grammy Awards and six nominations. The ensemble has also been presented by the Library of Congress in Washington D.C., Cooper Union in New York City, Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, Getty Center, Orange County Performing Arts Center, Ojai Festival, and Luckman Fine Arts Center. In 2003 Southwest Chamber Music became the first American ensemble to perform at the Arnold Schoenberg Center in Vienna. Southwest Chamber Music is also focusing attention on the centennial of John Cage, born in L.A. in 1912. Cage 2012, which will continue throughout the next two seasons, is supported by a major grant from the NEA as part of its American Masterpiece series. The ensemble released our 25th recording in 2009, the Encounters by William Kraft, which received our 7th Grammy nomination. For more information, see www.swmusic.org.
Southwest Chamber Music Artistic Director and conductor Jeff von der Schmidt writes:
“When Wadada Leo Smith responded to my email request for a new composition for the 25th anniversary of Southwest Chamber Music in 2011-2012, I anticipated discussing a work from 15 to 20 minutes. I met him at his home in Ventura, California, a few weeks after my ensemble had finished the "Ascending Dragon Music Festival and Cultural Exchange," a 6-week cultural exchange funded by the U.S. State Department, the most artistically and administratively ambitious project our ensemble had ever undertaken. Seeing him was the first meeting I had after the completion of Ascending Dragon.
You can imagine my surprise when Wadada revealed the vision of his three evening Ten Freedom Summers project for Southwest and his Golden Quartet. My idea for a new piece had given him the inspiration to create this now vast canvas. On the one hand I was tired from the two years of work planning and producing Ascending Dragon, but on the other hand, I knew immediately that Ten Freedom Summers was the next project to follow our encounter with Vietnam. He had the perfect idea for our 25th anniversary in 2011-2012.
I also knew that we should think ahead to the summer of 2014 – the 50th anniversary of the heinous Neshoba County murders in Mississippi and the Gulf of Tonkin incident in Vietnam. Wadada was creating the perfect opportunity for us to bring together the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Era.
YES was the only response he deserved, right then and there.”
The GOLDEN QUARTET is an ensemble of master composers/performers, whose experimental practice utilizes the quartet form, which is the purest foundation of musical expression in jazz/creative music and western music culture. As multi-instrumentalists they are concerned with a practice and research that involves an array of complex systemic forms, where the musical languages of compositional/improvisational/ankhrasmation are merged seamlessly in their interactive development in the quartet and are manifested in the performance dimension as a single music language. Golden Quartet's music is fiery, explosive, and surges with a positive improvised energy force that is constructed with polycentric melodic/sonic/rhythm units. The ensemble's textural and structural materials reveal a musical terrain that is creatively rich and architecturally clear in form. The Golden Quartet is comprised of trumpeter/leader/composer Ishmael Wadada Leo Smith, pianist Angelica Sanchez, drummer Pheeroan AkLaff, and bassist John Lindberg.
Golden Quartet performances in Fall 2010 included appearances at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., Ford Amphitheater in Los Angeles, Brooklyn Public Library in New York, New Music Center in St. Louis, and Umbrella Music Festival in Chicago.