PROJECT #60: DOPE
The first semester of my masters- I was in a different headspace. I had finished writing Where the Sky Has No Stars and at the moment I felt renewed. I didn’t know what else to write, so I began to write music that felt disingenuous to my spirit (music that will never see the light of day)- I was going on autopilot and I had lost my voice. During one of my lessons at UT Austin, my professor Omar Thomas and I began listening to a piece I had mocked up a couple of days before. We both weren’t feeling it, and finally I asked him to turn off the piece and I told him it didn’t sound like me. I felt lost creatively. He then asked me what music I listen to. I began to name only band music composers. He asked me again, and I told him outside of wind band music I’m in love with Rap, R & B, Jazz and Soul.
Then he asked an important question- “Why do you make a barrier between those ideals?”
I didn’t have an answer. It was a wake-up call for me. Why was I compartmentalizing my musical inspirations?
He continued, “If you create something that is a celebration of who you are, the music you grew up with, and the music that inspires you now… then that would be dope…”
And with that this piece was born. With that realization, I began to create a piece that celebrated all the music that had inspired me throughout my life. From Thundercat to Kendrick Lamar, Miles Davis to Hiatus Kaiyote, I wanted to bring all of these influences together into one cohesive work...one dope work. DOPE is a gumbo of all the music that inspires and influences me from Thundercat to Kendrick Lamar to Miles Davis to Hiatus Kaiyote and more, this piece is in essence a deep look into my musical world.
The piece can be broken up into three parts. Since this work is dedicated to the trail black music has created, inspired and the new horizons it’s reaching, each part is named after a part of the black identity.
UNDENIABLY (which is the partial score) is the opening of the piece. It's gritty, intense with moments of color and undeniable energy. It is carried by a bass line heavily influenced by Thundercat's playing on Kendrick Lamar's Untitled 05 along with Miles Davis's Nardis.
UNAPOLOGETICALLY (the middle section) is a world building vibe and examines just how beautiful the music can be. I explore the colors and stretch them to their limits, but in doing so found new hues within myself and my writings. With this act, I gained heavy inspiration from John Coltrane, Robert Glasper, Kamasi Washington and Hiatus Kaiyote (to name a few)
UNDISPUTEDLY (the finale) is an intense, groove filled statement. Every color explored is here and is in its full potential. It's bold and- like undeniably and unapologetically- is undisputedly black. Guided by my love for Tyler, the Creator's Hot Wind Blows, Marvin Gaye's I Want You ( due to Kendrick's The Heart series), and Kamasi Washington's Street Fighter Mas along with Askem.
I hope that "DOPE" will serve as a tribute to the black musicians who have paved the way and inspired me to create music that is authentic to who I am. I also hope that this piece will inspire others to break down the barriers between their musical influences and create something truly unique and personal.
October 9, 2022
University of South Carolina Symphonic Winds (DR. JAY JACOBS, CONDUCTOR)
Jay Jacobs - University of South Carolina
Jay Watkins - University of Florida
Dan Belongia - Arkansas Tech University
Joseph Cernuto - Millersville University
Brian Silvey - University of Missouri
Dan McDonald - Northwestern State University
Jerry Junkin - University of Texas
Christopher Heffner - Lebanon Valley College
Anthony Pursell - University of Central Missouri
Josh Byrd - University of West Georgia
Jonathan Caldwell - University of North Carolina Greensboro
Tonya Mitchell-Spradlin - Pennsylvania State University
Jonathan Helmick - Slippery Rock University
Serena Weren - Loyola University New Orleans
Michael Hancock - University of Central Arkansas
Colonel Jason K. Fettig, "The President's Own" United States Marine Band
Todd Ebert - Cuthbertson High School
Sue Samuels - Furman University
William Petersen - University of South Alabama
Mark Spede - Clemson University
Jerry Gatch - Newberry College
Russell McCutcheon - Sunderman Conservatory of Music, Gettysburg College
Andrea Brown - University of Maryland