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Code Switch Mixtape

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Derrick Spiva Jr.
Conor Abbott Brown

Derrick Spiva Jr. and Conor Abbott Brown


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General Info

Year: 2020
Duration: c. 20:15
Difficulty: VI (see Ratings for explanation)
Publisher: Unknown
Cost: Score and Parts - Unknown


Movements

1. Through All That, Beauty i5:40
2. How can this be? - 3:10
3. Perpetual Grit - 3:50
4. The Garden of Merging Paths - 6:55


Instrumentation

(Needed - please join the WRP if you can help.)

Players clapping and whispering


Errata

None discovered thus far.


Program Notes

Code Switch Mixtape is a collection of works that often engage with the musical language of two or more musical traditions within a single composition or collection of compositions.

I. Through All That, Beauty references the struggle of marginalized groups in a society. Through a history of intense challenges, people are still able to maintain and create beauty. The piece begins with an open, spacious texture with rhythmic punctuations. These rhythms lead to a section with a long, syncopated melodic line that repeats and builds in harmonic texture. This section also includes an ostinato that draws from the bell pattern found in Bawa, a drum and dance piece originating from the Dagaaba people of Ghana. Towards the end of the piece, an open texture returns, punctuated with text spoken by musicians which reference significant moments in the history of social and political struggle in the United States. This movement was composed by Derrick Spiva Jr.

II. How can this be? This piece is a visceral response to the intertwining pandemics of racism and COVID-19. In terms of density over time, the piece roughly follows the curve of COVID-19 daily infections in the United States from March 2020 until the piece was completed in August of 2020. The spoken text in the piece consists of a fragment of a list of dates that documents failures of the United States justice system throughout history to address violence against Black people. At first the dates proceed backwards in time, but they curve back around to the present once again, highlighting the immediacy of this issue:

  • July 1. 2019: U.S. Attorney General William Barr orders the Justice Department not to bring federal civil rights charges against the police officer who killed Eric Garner.
  • Jan. 21, 1970: A coroner’s jury rules that the killing of Fred Hampton and Mark Clark was a “justifiable homicide.” The tactical unit responsible for this killing was organized by the Chicago Police Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Illinois State Attorney’s Office. Scholars now widely agree that this was an assassination.
  • June 21, 1921: According to the Oklahoma Historical Society, after the deaths of possibly as many as three hundred people in the Tulsa race massacre and the large-scale destruction of Black-owned homes and businesses, “An all-white grand jury blamed black Tulsans for the lawlessness. Despite overwhelming evidence, no whites were ever sent to prison for the murders and arson that occurred.”
  • April 22, 1899: In Williamsburg County, South Carolina, the trial in the case of the murder of postmaster and teacher Frazier B. Baker and his infant daughter Julia Baker ends when an all-white jury declares a mistrial, despite overwhelming evidence regarding the identity of the perpetrators.
  • June 14, 1967: Florida State Attorney Paul Antinori announces that an officer was “justified” in killing unarmed 19-year-old Martin Chambers.
  • Nov. 22, 2019: In Colorado, Adams County District Attorney Dave Young decides that the case of the death of Elijah McClain, after an incident involving the use of force by Aurora police, will not be prosecuted as a homicide. This movement was composed by Conor Abbott Brown.

III. Perpetual Grit references the perseverance of those who desire to create change. The piece attempts to convey the impulse and absolute will to survive and flourish in the face of extreme obstacles. Perpetual Grit shifts between repeated rhythmic cycles of four beats and 10 beats. This shifting is meant to represent new ideas that may feel strange at first, but then develop into a familiar foundation with time. This piece ends with musicians humming a melody written in five cycles of 10 beats. Although the melody is based on an asymmetrical number of beats, the humming represents this cycle being internalized and embodied by the musicians in a way that feels natural. This movement was composed by Derrick Spiva Jr.

IV. The Garden of Merging Paths. The title of this piece is a reference to the title of short story El jardín de senderos que se bifurcan (The Garden of Forking Paths) by Jorge Luis Borges, considered an early example of postmodernism in literature. I approach the “merging paths” as a multilayered metaphor; one of those layers is the idea that every human being on the planet is facing increasingly-interconnected existential challenges. Inspired by conversations with composer Derrick Spiva Jr., I set out when composing this piece to imagine a brighter future where those challenges are being met and overcome. The rhythmic backbone of the piece is a cyclical nine-beat pattern (2+2+2+1+2) set over a massive tempo arc (a long accelerando followed by a shorter ritardando.) This nine-beat rhythm is present in numerous musical cultures across Anatolia and the Balkans, associated diasporas, and related music scenes globally, including folk and/or classical traditions of Armenian, Kurdish, Romani, Turkish and other communities. In the classical usul rhythmic system, this rhythm is known as evfer. In folk traditions it may be referred to (depending on where you ask and who myou are asking) as tamzara, romany 9, roman havası or yet by other names. This movement was composed by Conor Abbott Brown.

- Program Note from University of Colorado Boulder Wind Symphony concert program, 15 April 2021


Media

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State Ratings

None discovered thus far.


Performances

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  • University of Colorado Boulder Wind Symphony (Donald J. McKinney, conductor) - 15 April 2021 *Premiere Performance*


Works for Winds by This Composer


Resources