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In November, the Kaufman Music Center and International Contemporary Ensemble co-present the world premiere of Courtney Bryan’s DREAMING (Freedom Sounds) for ensemble and voices, as part of the program “Composing While Black, Volume One.”

On November 1, the International Contemporary Ensemble, led by conductor Vimbayi Kaziboni, presents the world premiere of Courtney Bryan’s new work DREAMING (Freedom Sounds) at the Kaufman Music Center as part of the program “Composing While Black, Volume One.” The program—curated by the Ensemble’s artistic director George E. Lewis (and longtime mentor of Bryan)—centers Afromodernism as an intercultural, multi-generational space of innovation. In addition to Bryan’s new piece, the concert also features Adegoke Steve Colson’s MIRRORS (world premiere), Brittany J. Green’s Thread and Pull, and Runagate, Runagate by Wendell Logan, who was Bryan’s professor and mentor at Oberlin College.

> Nov 1: Bryan, DREAMING (Freedom Sounds) with International Contemporary Ensemble and Vimbayi Kaziboni

DREAMING (Freedom Sounds), approximately 20 minutes long, is written for large ensemble and two voices—performed here by soprano Alice Teyssier and mezzo-soprano Fay Victor—and structured in six movements: I. The Color Line; II. We Dissent; III. What is the Sound of Freedom?; IV. Freedom Dreams; V. The Garden; and VI. Grace.

Bryan’s piece is a meditation on themes of freedom—freedom within a system, and freedom beyond a system—and weaves together texts by Frederick Douglass and W.E.B. Du Bois, George E. Lewis, Robin D. G. Kelley, and Farah Jasmine Griffin. The second movement, “We Dissent,” is a reading of various US Supreme Court letters of dissent, including texts written by Justices Jackson, Sotomayor, Kagan, and Breyer on the rulings against affirmative action, abortion rights, and LGBTQ rights.

Birdsong, associated with freedom as well as climate change, plays a significant role in the piece—songs of cardinals, sparrows, hummingbirds, blue jays, and mourning doves are transcribed for the wind instruments. In the final movement, “Grace,” Bryan sets text by Farah Jasmine Griffin that references songbirds as a reminder of grace in the face of dark times: “They, like the songbirds overhead, are a reminder that though the world is full of ugliness, meanness, hatefulness, there is always, also, this: Grace.”

Bryan began writing the piece during the pandemic, forming initial ideas for the piece through a collaborative process of interviewing the Ensemble’s members on themes important to the composer: freedom, love, home, spirit, sanctuary, and transformation. The final work, DREAMING (Freedom Sounds), salutes the 50th wedding anniversary of Arlene and Larry Dunn, who commissioned the piece for the International Contemporary Ensemble to premiere.

Concert Info
Wednesday, November 1 at 7:30pm ET
Kaufman Music Center, Merkin Hall | New York
More info

Kaufman Music Center &
International Contemporary Ensemble co-present:
Composing While Black, Volume One

International Contemporary Ensemble
Vimbayi Kaziboni, conductor

BRITTANY J. GREEN Thread and Pull
WENDELL LOGAN Runagate, Runagate
COURTNEY BRYAN DREAMING (Freedom Sounds) (World Premiere)

>  Further information on Work: DREAMING (Freedom Sounds)

Photo: Taylor Hunter

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