For Good Measure, by Ensemble for These Times (E4TT)
Episode 74: Da Capo Conversations with Anthony R. Green and Darian Donovan Thomas
Looking for a way to listen to diverse creators and to support equity in the arts? Tune in weekly to For Good Measure!
Today we revisit Anthony R. Green’s and Darian Donovan Thomas’ perspectives on music activism. If you enjoyed today’s conversation and want to know more about Anthony R. Green and Darian Donovan Thomas, check them out here and here. Parts of this episode originally premiered on March 15, 2021, on Youtube, click here and on December 20, 2021, on Youtube, click here.
This podcast is made possible in part by a grant from the California Arts Council and generous donors, like you. Want to support For Good Measure and E4TT? Make a tax-deductible donation or sign up for our newsletter, and subscribe to the podcast!
Intro music: “Trifolium” by Gabriela Ortiz, performed by E4TT (Ilana Blumberg, violin; Abigail Monroe, cello; Margaret Halbig, piano), as part of “Below the Surface: Music by Women Composers,” January 29, 2022
Outro music: “Lake Turkana” by Marcus Norris, performed by E4TT (Margaret Halbig, piano), as part of “Alchemy,” October 15, 2021
Transcription courtesy of Otter.ai.
Co-Producer, Host, and E4TT co-founder: Nanette McGuinness
Co-Producer and Audio Engineer: Stephanie M. Neumann
Podcast Cover Art: Brennan Stokes
With assistance from Adrienne Anaya, Hannah Chen, Sam Mason, Renata Volchinskaya
Nanette McGuinness 00:00
[INTRO MUSIC] Welcome to For Good Measure, an interview series celebrating diverse composers and other creative artists sponsored by a grant from the California Arts Council. I'm Nanette McGuinness, artistic executive director of Ensemble for These Times. In this week's episode, we continue our Da Capo Conversations, a mini-series where we'll be giving familiar segments a topical twist. [INTRO MUSIC ENDS]. Today we revisit Anthony R. Greens' and Darian Donovan Thomas' perspectives on activism in music. Here's what Anthony R. Green had to say.
Anthony R. Green 00:40
With regards to social justice, I naturally have gravitated towards implementing that aspect of creativity into my practice. One of the first ever social justice pieces that I composed was way back in 2004 / 2005 and it concerned death in the war in Iraq. I had come across this article on the internet that basically said, the amount of reported deaths in the war in Iraq is much lower than the amount of actual death in this war. And amazingly enough, sadly enough, in 2020, actually, even today, when we see the numbers of the amount of people officially reported to have passed away because of Coronavirus. It is most likely extremely low compared to the actual numbers of people who have died because of Coronavirus. So in a weird way that very first social justice piece that I ever composed has come around to the events that started in 2020 and have an are unfortunately still continuing. However, it's super important in my practice that I use my platform to talk about various different issues such as the power of women, immigration, of course, matters related to black life in the United States and around the world. Transgender issues, access issues in terms of ableism, all sorts of issues can be discussed, and be examined in a composition. But first and foremost, as a social justice artist, when I go about creating a piece of junk, social justice, music, I want my audiences to think about the issues that are being presented to them. And hopefully, my pieces will help people go home from that experience, and do some more research, do some more reading, perhaps do some more talking with their friends and family and then be an agent of change.
Nanette McGuinness 03:06
Here's what Darian Donovan Thomas had to say.
Darian Donovan Thomas 03:08
I've always thought that anything an artist says will be taken in the context of their time. Even choose not to respond to your time still choice. I'd much rather be one of the artists who's responding to the things that are happening around me. It also feels like an important way to remain authentic and not to feel untethered from the world around me. Even if I'm creating things that are ethereal, dreamy, or abstract art, sound for sound's sake, it's still going to be grounded in the time that I'm in. The sirens of 2021 or 2020 in New York, and the police cars and all the chances of people and all the talking that happens around different topics of police brutality, or around the topics of COVID. This chattering frenetic energy was very much the sound world of the year. It wouldn't make sense to ignore it, not put it in my art, you know. I found that I have a way of saying things, sometimes an art that communicates a message differently than people have heard it before. This happened with Kid Gunner Brother, this happened with Stephon Clark, where I just remember the piece being premiered and then people in the audience coming up to me afterwards and saying I never actually thought about it that way. It felt like they had a better understanding of what needs to be said. There's a weird austerity and music sometimes where it can be non emotional and it can be purely data's almost like a sonic grass. I think sometimes that's more effective than everything that media does at the moment because, that's a whole dramatic mess. And theatrical quandary honestly to figure out like, which media analysts should I be listening to where should be getting resources from? Where should we be getting info from? If I can make something really clear in art, then I would love to do that, and that feels like a good use for art as well. Then of course, always balancing it out with making things that are, I don't know, just beautiful. Around the same time that I made. One was a Disintegrating Foundation Under a Catastrophe of Air this solo bass piece about COVID and about virtually protests all happening at the same time. I also made Florida Cemre, which is this abstract sound for sound sake, string orchestra piece. It feels good to do both, I'm not prison make only one kind of art, but also capable of making both kinds you know.
Nanette McGuinness 05:58
[OUTRO MUSIC] Thank you for listening to For Good Measure's Da Capo Conversations, and a special thank you to our guests for joining us today. If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe to our podcast by clicking on the subscribe button and support us by sharing it with your friends, posting about it on social media, and leaving us a rating and a review. To learn more about E4TT, our concert season online and in the Bay Area, or to make a tax-deductible donation, please visit us at www.e4tt.org. This podcast is made possible in part by a grant from the California Arts Council and generous donors like you. For Good Measure is produced by Nanette McGuinness and Ensemble for These Times and designed by Brennan Stokes. With special thanks to co-producer and audio engineer Stephanie M. Neumann. Remember to keep supporting equity in the arts and tune in next week “for good measure.” [OUTRO MUSIC ENDS]