Shared, In Balanced Contrast
multimedia co-creation with flutist Elijah J. Thomas, premiered July 2021 on the International Contemporary Ensemble final showcase of Ensemble Evolution 2021
Creation and Commentary
“Shared, In Balanced Contrast” (2021) was composed and produced with co-creator and fellow flutist Elijah J. Thomas during the 2021 International Contemporary Ensemble summer festival “Ensemble Evolution.” I was particularly excited and honored to have been selected for the International Contemporary Ensemble festival this year because of the relevance of poignance of the workshop theme—Arts Equity and Activism. Throughout the discussions and workshops of Ensemble Evolution 2021, led by Dr. Derrell Akon, Elijah Thomas and I came together in an enlightened understanding of the protection of separate and shared spaces—when music seeks to protect and when music seeks to break barriers. Elijah and I also bonded over our affinity for Baroque flute music and its balance between structure and freedom in improvisation. Together, we created a shared space, in balanced contrast. Out of that space, “Shared, In Balanced Contrast” was born.
The piece is a flute, alto flute, and multimedia exploration of the balance between shared and separate spaces, freedom and structure, and contrast. Musical elements of contrast include drones and clusters with separate flourishes and extended techniques sharing the sonic space. Monochrome visual design highlights contrasting elements of shadows—explored by dancing hands and bodies, fashion, and abstractions. The black and white cinematography also pays respect to the Black and white co-creators, observing and respecting their spaces, both separate and shared.
Elijah and I were collaborating from separate states as well. He is based in Harlem, New York, and I was composing in Denton, Texas. Our collaborative exchange and production process involved sending audio and video materials back and forth to one another, gradually constructing the piece. To begin, I recorded flute drones on flute and alto flute into Pro Tools. Within Pro Tools I edited the drones into chordal layers and clusters and organized a skeleton framework for the piece.
Elijah performed an improvisation over the skeleton and sent the material back to me. I combined the audio from his improvisation into the Pro Tools session and added electronic effects including reverb, delay, and equalization. Next, I extracted certain parts to juxtapose against my own improvisation or repeat for emphasis. Then I added another layer of supporting drones and effects. After final effects, mixing, and mastering, I exported the final audio track to be used for the video production.
I produced the video in Adobe PremierePro using the videos of Elijah’s and my improvisations as the foundation upon which to add other found footage and effects. Drawing upon our themes of contrast and collaboration, I included footage of hands, shadows, geometric shapes, models, and a dancer, each of which feature an element of the autobiographical nature of the piece and/or sharp lines representative of contrast. I further emphasize the contrast, while also aiding the continuity, by editing the found footage into a black and white film.
The hands include a Black male and a white female hand, representative of us as co-creators.
I also included footage of models—a Black man in a white suit and a white blonde woman in a black dress, again representing the co-creators.
In addition to models, I included footage of a dancer. She appears to be dancing in a concrete parking garage, with the industrial aesthetic contributing to the visual themes of shadows and sharp lines. The two selections I included present the dancer in a full white outfit contrasted with the dancer in a full black outfit. I juxtapose these two scenes against one another as well as with the scenes of the aforementioned models dressed in contrasting black and white.
Nonhuman representations of contrast explored musically and visually include footage of pattern-folded paper casting shadows. The visual composition aligns with the sharp angles of the concrete parking garage walls as well as the angle of Elijah’s flute. The shadows provide subtle movement and connection to the shadows casted by the hand that is the opening and closing shot of the film.
All of the source footage serves to support the videos of Elijah and myself on the flute and alto flute as well as highlight the musical elements of contrast with the imagery and editing. Other editing included overlaying videos atop one another, floating videos in separate corners, and quick cuts between shots in conjunction with cuts in the music.
The piece premiered on July 2, 2021 in the final concert livestream of the Ensemble Evolution festival by the International Contemporary Ensemble. It was received with praise for not only its musical and visual content but its representation of ourselves as co-creators and its embodiment of the very arts activism that was inspired by the Ensemble Evolution workshop. Co-creating this piece with Elijah, celebrating our interracial collaboration, after my beautiful collaboration with Eboni Johnson and Hannah Ottinger with “I See You,” movitated me to continue exploring intersectionalism in my research and art. Following Ensemble Evolution, I read Mikki Kendall’s book Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women that a Movement Forgot, which became part of the text featured in the piece I discuss in "At My Intersection."
Co-composed by flutist-improviser-creators Elijah J. Thomas and Aleyna M. Brown, “Shared, In Balanced Contrast” is a flute and multimedia exploration of the balance between shared and separate spaces, freedom and structure, and contrast. The collaboration between Thomas and Brown was birthed during the International Contemporary Ensemble 2021 workshop “Ensemble Evolution,” focused on arts equity and activism. Throughout the discussions and teachings of EVO2021, Thomas and Brown came together in an enlightened understanding of the protection of separate and shared spaces--when music seeks to protect and when music seeks to break barriers. They also bonded over their affinity for Baroque flute music and its balance between structure and freedom in improvisation. Together, they created a shared space, in balanced contrast. Musical elements of contrast include drones and clusters with separate flourishes and extended techniques sharing the sonic space. Monochrome visual design highlights contrasting elements of shadows--explored by dancing hands and bodies, fashion, and abstractions. The black and white cinematography also pays respect to the Black and white co-creators, observing and respecting their spaces, both separate and shared.