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CBMR Digest is a publication of the Center for Black Music Research at Columbia College Chicago

ISSN # 2168-3301spring 2014 | Volume 27, No. 1

CBMR Announces FREE/PHASE Project and Receives Grant from the Joyce Foundation

The CBMR has engaged media artists Mendi and Keith Obadike to create a major project titled FREE/PHASE, an intermedia suite of artworks that will include music, sound art, video, and documentary and archival elements. The Joyce Foundation has awarded the CBMR a $40,000 grant to support the preparation and production of the project.

The FREE/PHASE suite will activate cross-media materials from the CBMR’s archival collections around the overarching theme of freedom and will offer opportunities for diverse Chicago audiences to reflect on black music as a record of the desire for freedom and inspiration for movements leading to that goal; and to make connections between individual and community notions of freedom. FREE/PHASE will be structured in three movements or nodes, each of which is conceived as a multidimensional and multi-sourced remix of a song about freedom culled from the CBMR Archives. The nodes will be presented and produced in several venues throughout the city of Chicago and will include audience participation.

Node 1, Beacon, will be a multi-channel public sound art installation inspired by the Underground Railroad song “Follow the Drinking Gourd.” It will be comprised of edited and processed recordings from the CBMR archives mixed with field recordings and original music by the project artists.

Node 2, Overcome, will be a video work using visual and audio elements drawn from the CBMR archives. It will be inspired by the spiritual “Woke up This Morning with My Mind Stayed on Freedom.”

Node 3, Dialogue, will be a series of public “listening posts” set up at sites across the city of Chicago. Each dialogue will create an opportunity for participants to choose a song about freedom from a set of 150 works selected from the CBMR Archives. The participants will engage in a semi-scripted conversation with a panel of DJs that represents archivists.

FREE/PHASE has been commissioned in honor of this year’s 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and in recognition of the CBMR’s 30th anniversary. The project is particularly appropriate since it continues the CBMR’s long-term goal to document and present music from the African diaspora that manifests the intimate connections between freedom, social change, diasporic identity, and music. FREE/PHASE is the third in a series of artworks by the project artists that addresses and grapples with distinctly American issues and subjects related to race, self-expression, social change, and history. The first two works in the series are House/Disclosure and American Cypher, which is currently on exhibit at The Studio Museum in Harlem.

Mendi and Keith Obadike make music, art, and literatures. Their honors include a Rockefeller New Media Arts Fellowship, a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship in Fiction, and a nomination for the Alpert Award in Music. Their work has been commissioned by The Kitchen (New York), Rhizome/The New Museum, The New York African Film Festival with Electronic Arts Intermix, Northwestern University, Bucknell University, the Yale Cabaret, Whitechapel Art Gallery (London), and The Whitney Museum of American Art. They have released two albums on Bridge Records, a book of poetry with Lotus Press, and have two artists’ books to be released this year on 1913 Press. They are touring their opera-masquerade Four Electric Ghosts and developing a new series of sound installations titled African Metropole: Sonic City. Their work can be experienced at their website.

The Joyce Foundation Continues Its Support of the CBMR

Since 1989, the CBMR has received over $320,000 in grants from the Joyce Foundation. The foundation has supported several projects, including, among others, the original Black Music Repertory Ensemble. Support from the Joyce Foundation has significantly increased and diversified the CBMR’s constituency through the development and production of Project Kalinda and Project Stop-Time, both of which included the development of local community-based advisory boards, the publication of two serial multi-year newsletters (Kalinda! and Stop-Time), and the creation of specialized professional performance ensembles (Ensemble Kalinda and Ensemble Stop-Time) that presented performances and lecture-demonstrations to thousands throughout the city of Chicago.

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