Westerlies Go West: Tonight at the Royal Room!

by Maggie Molloy

Photo by Sasha Arutyunova.

The Westerlies are back in the Northwest this week, coming home with new sounds and brand new music to premiere tonight at the Royal Room in Columbia City.

Far from your typical brass band, the Seattle-bred, New York-based quartet is known on both coasts for their bold artistry, impeccable finesse, eclectic musical interpretations, and remarkable versatility. Together, they’ve cultivated an expansive brass quartet repertoire featuring over 50 original compositions as well as adaptations of composers as diverse and wide-ranging as Ives, Ellington, Bartók, Ligeti, and many more.

Comprised of Riley Mulherkar and Zubin Hensler on trumpet with Andy Clausen and Willem de Koch on trombone, the Westerlies grew up together playing music in Seattle under the mentorship of Wayne Horvitz—making their homecoming performance all the more special, as Horvitz is the co-founder and music programmer of the Royal Room.

The Westerlies performing with Wayne Horvitz at the Royal Room. Photo by Daniel Sheehan.

Tonight, you can expect to hear a little jazz, a little classical, some folk, roots, blues, and chamber influences—but no matter what the Westerlies play, the one element that remains constant across all of their music is the warmth, camaraderie, charisma, and humor of four longtime friends.

“Whatever ‘sound’ the Westerlies have stumbled upon is the result of four friends channeling these diverse interests through warm air, buzzing lips and conical brass tubes—with a lot of love and saliva in there too,” said Andy Clausen.

For a sneak preview, check out our in-studio videos of the guys performing works by Charles Ives, Andy Clausen, and Wayne Horvitz:


The Westerlies perform at the Royal Room Thursday, June 15 at 8pm. For tickets and additional information, please click here.

STAFF PICKS: Friday Faves

Second Inversion hosts share a favorite selection from this Friday’s playlist. Tune in during the indicated hours below on Friday, September 23 to hear these pieces. In the meantime, you’ll hear other great new and unusual music from all corners of the classical genre 24/7!

Gabriel Kahane: Last Dance (Story Sound Records)a4106913517_16

Utterly lovely.  Two words are all one needs to describe Gabriel Kahane’s “Last Dance.”  It starts softly with poetic vocals accompanied by a light instrumental touch and swells then swerves to a more energetic, somewhat off-kilter indie pop composition heavy on guitar.  It’s an intelligent, beautiful song full of empathy. – Rachele Hales

Tune in to Second Inversion in the 12pm hour today to hear an excerpt from this piece.


Traditional (arr. Danish String Quintet): Five Sheep, Four Goats (DACAPO Records)8-226081

Autumn is in the air, so I’m in the mood for music that encourages nesting. I’ve found such a piece in Five Sheep, Four Goats, a traditional tune on the Danish String Quartet’s 2013 release Wood Works. This arrangement by the DSQ is comforting without being boring. The folk tune itself is simple and gorgeous, but the true gem on this track is the placidly rhapsodic flugelhorn solo by Mads la Cour. Crank this one up and break out the cinnamon donuts! – Seth Tompkins

Tune in to Second Inversion in the 4pm hour today to hear this piece. In the meantime, enjoy the recording that DSQ made of this piece in our studios!


Wayne Horvitz: “The Circus Prospered,” arranged and performed by The Westerlies91e6ovdpx2l-_sx425_ (Songlines Recordings)

“The Circus Prospered” is the kind of melancholy curtain-raiser that accompanies the opening scene of a crackling black and white silent film—or perhaps more specifically, a Charlie Chaplin film.

Composed by Seattle-based jazz giant Wayne Horvitz and arranged by The Westerlies for their two-trumpet, two-trombone brass quartet, the piece was originally conceived as a 21st century accompaniment for Charlie Chaplin’s 1928 film The Circus. With swelling harmonies and soulful dissonances, the piece harbors the nostalgic warmth of a black and white film while also capturing the irresistible whimsicality and color of the circus.

Recorded on Lopez Island amidst the calm and quiet of the Pacific Northwest’s most beautiful landscapes, the quartet’s muted colors bleed softly into one another like a cloud-smudged sunrise—and just like those old Charlie Chaplin flicks, the music sparkles with charisma, charm, and a certain cinematic timelessness. – Maggie Molloy

Tune in to Second Inversion in today to hear this piece.

 

Universal Language Project Podcast: Revealing the Composer’s Artistic Process

by Maggie Stapleton

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We are thrilled to announce the launch of Universal Language Project’s brand new podcast! This is a co-production between Second Inversion and ULP, featuring interviews recorded in our studios and live concert recordings from our live concert recording archives.

Each episode features a 20-minute interview with a Northwest composer to gain insight into their creative intentions and artistic process followed by a recording of a brand new work – often from the premiere, live and unedited in all its glory.

Episode 1: Jovino Santos Neto

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Three-time Latin Grammy nominee Jovino Santos Neto, a master pianist, composer and arranger, is among the top Brazilian musicians working today. Currently based in Seattle, Washington, he has throughout his career been closely affiliated with the Brazilian master Hermeto Pascoal. He was an integral part of Pascoal’s group from 1977 to 1992, where he fine-tuned his artistry, performing around the world and co-producing several legendary records.

For this composition, SACI, the Universal Language Project commissioned Jovino to write a multi-movement piece designed to pair with Stravinsky’s L’histoire du soldat. This work is intended as commentary on Stravinsky’s work where, about 100 years later, we are also creating great shows in a time of limited financial means. This work is based on a mythical Brazilian folk character, the Saci, who simultaneously helps us out of tricky situations and mischievously keeps us humble. This work beautifully merges Jovino’s background in Brazilian jazz with contemporary classical composition to create a delightfully charming and important new piece.

Stephan Michael Newby, Baritone / Narrator
Eric Rynes, Violin
Eric Likkel, Clarinet
Brian Chin, Trumpet
Nathan Vetter, Trombone
Steve Morgan, Bassoon
Todd Gowers, Bass
Ben Thomas, Percussion

Recorded Live at the Velocity Dance Center in Seattle, WA
May 16th, 2015
Bill Levey: Audio Engineer

Episode 2: Wayne Horvitz

Wayne Horvitz is a composer, pianist and electronic musician who has performed extensively throughout Europe, Asia, Australia, and North America. He is the leader of the Gravitas Quartet, Sweeter Than the Day, Zony Mash, The Four plus One Ensemble and co-founder of the New York Composers Orchestra.

Working primary in a jazz inspired large ensemble medium, Wayne’s music seems to naturally defied any one genre and offers a truly unique sound to the 21st century music collection. This piece, A Stammer for Tori, was inspired by the violinist Victoria Parker and is written for a small mixed chamber ensemble.
Victoria Parker, Violin
Susan Telford, Flute
Eric Likkel, Clarinet
Brian Chin, Trumpet
Nathan Vetter, Trombone
Rajan Krishnaswami, Cello
Kevin Johnson, Piano
Rob Tucker, Percussion

Recorded Live at the Velocity Dance Center in Seattle, WA
Jan. 9th 2015
Bill Levey: Audio Engineer

The Universal Language Project is a music-centric multi-arts concert series dedicated to generating new music for the 21st century. It is a program of Common Tone Arts, a non-profit arts organization dedicated to creating positive change for our diverse world through music and arts education.

2016 FOLKLIFE PREVIEW: Meet the Westerlies

by Maggie Molloy

The Westerlies are a Seattle-born, New York-based brass quartet named after the prevailing winds that blow from West to East—but this month they are reversing those winds and travelling from East to West. Their destination? The Second Inversion Showcase at Northwest Folklife.

We are thrilled to present the Westerlies, along with Sound of Late and the Skyros Quartet, at our Second Inversion Showcase at Folklife on Friday, May 27 at 8 p.m.

The Westerlies All photos credit Sasha Arutyunova, except the final

While the Westerlies may be charming, dapper, and impeccably dressed, let it be known that these guys are not your typical boy band. Comprised of Riley Mulherkar and Zubin Hensler on trumpet with Andy Clausen and Willem de Koch on trombone, the guys are known for their bold artistry, skilled technical finesse, eclectic musical interpretations, and remarkable versatility.

The guys grew up together playing music in Seattle under the mentorship of Wayne Horvitz, and after relocating to New York City to attend school, they formed a quartet in late 2011. Since then, they have cultivated a new brass quartet repertoire featuring over 50 original compositions as well as adaptations of composers as diverse and wide-ranging as Ives, Ellington, Bartók, Ligeti, and many more.

But no matter what they play, the one element that remains constant across all of their music is the warmth, camaraderie, and good-humored personalities of four longtime friends. We sat down with the guys to see what we can expect at the Second Inversion Showcase:

Second Inversion: How would you describe or characterize your ensemble’s sound?

Andy ClausenAndy Clausen: When The Westerlies first came together as an ensemble in 2011, it felt much more like a rock band in spirit. We were four childhood friends from Seattle who had just moved to New York and found a little slice of home when we were hanging out. At the same time, we were all seeking some sort of escape from the musical confines of jazz and classical conservatories. 

As we started composing and arranging for the group, we realized rather quickly that it wasn’t going to be a traditional classical chamber ensemble, or a “brass band”—that what we were seeking was something entirely other. 

Whenever we approach a new piece with the ensemble, whether it’s an original composition, a folk song, a Ligeti piano piece, an Ellington piece, a Bulgarian choral piece, or a Wayne Horvitz composition, we are trying to find the most personally expressive means of interpretation. Sometimes that involves dramatically reimagining the structure and whittling a piece down to its simplest essence, sometimes it involves a more literal reading of the score.

Having the freedom to radically personalize every piece we play through a democratic arranging process, and allowing each piece to grow and evolve over years of touring is something we have not experienced in any other type of ensemble.

We each come to the ensemble with variety of musical interests: folk, jazz, contemporary classical, gospel, Hindustani, indie rock, metal, Romantic, minimalist, maximalist, country, and blues.

Whatever “sound” The Westerlies have stumbled upon is the result of four friends channeling these diverse interests through warm air, buzzing lips and conical brass tubes—with a lot of love and saliva in there too.

SI: The Pacific Northwest is really blossoming in the contemporary classical music sphere—what do you think makes our music scene here so unique?

Willem de KochWillem de Koch: I think the Pacific Northwest in general, and Seattle in particular, has always been viewed as a distant outpost by the rest of the country. The geographic isolation and dramatic natural beauty of the region allow for a spirit of experimentation and entrepreneurship in every field, but that spirit is definitely imbued in the music of the Pacific Northwest of every genre.

Seattle has an immense and robust arts infrastructure, thanks in big part to the unique culture of philanthropy that has been cultivated here over the years. The nonprofit sector in Seattle is thriving, and that includes the numerous arts organizations and music presenters in the city. The musicians here would not have the freedom and ability to create exceptional work if it were not for the platform provided by organizations like KING FM and Second Inversion, Earshot Jazz, Town Hall Seattle, and of course Northwest Folklife. The list goes on. 

It should also be acknowledged that Seattle has a long history of exceptional music education. All four of us are products of the music programs at our Seattle public schools, and our time spent in those programs was a formative experience for all of us. Organizations like Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestra and Seattle JazzEd continue to ensure that every student has access to excellent music education, and that Seattle’s music education legacy will be upheld for many years to come. I really believe that music education scene in Seattle is completely unparalleled. 

SI: Northwest Folklife strengthens local communities through art and music, celebrating diverse cultural heritages and working to ensure their continued growth and development. What types of communities or music traditions are represented in your music?

Riley MulherkarRiley Mulherkar: The four of us come from differing musical backgrounds so there’s definitely a wide variety of traditions and communities represented in our music. One of the most direct influences we share comes from our mentor Wayne Horvitz, whose music we recorded for our debut album. Wayne has worn a number of hats in his career, from being a leading figure in New York’s downtown scene in the late 80s to film scoring and writing chamber music, jazz, and electronic music. His ability to seamlessly weave it all together is something we’ve admired since before we even existed as an ensemble.

Growing up in Seattle, the jam sessions around the city played a huge role in our development—whether at Cafe Racer or the Faire Cafe, these long nights of music opened up our ears and our minds. When we moved to New York, we were all introduced to a thriving contemporary classical community as well as a creative landscape in Brooklyn that has played a huge role in our development both individually and as an ensemble. More than anything, these communities have instilled values in us which shape the way we think, compose, and play.

SI: As Seattle natives, what does the Northwest Folklife Festival mean to you?

Zubin HenslerZubin Hensler: Folklife was the first music festival I ever went to. My parents brought me along when I was 7 months old and I’m pretty sure I didn’t miss a year from then until I was 18 and moved to NYC. So, it means a huge amount! What a privilege to grow up in a city where diverse music is celebrated and presented regularly. I owe so much of my musical (and life) education to the performances that I was exposed to at Folklife and the other festivals in the region. So, it’s a great honor to be able to come back and hopefully pass on some of that inspiration.

 

 

SI: What are you most looking forward to with this performance, and what do you hope audiences will gain from it?

Willem de Koch: It’s always a treat to return home and perform for our hometown crowd. We grew up performing at Folklife in our high school jazz bands, so we’re excited to have the opportunity to perform at the festival with our own band. We’re also really looking forward to being a part of the Second Inversion Showcase. Maggie Stapleton and everybody else at KING FM and Second Inversion have been doing a tremendous service for Seattle in highlighting both local and national artists who are creating unique new sounds.

We’re honored to be a part of the Second Inversion community and are really looking forward to hearing the other artists at the Showcase. All we hope for the audience is that they’re each able to make their own personal connection with our music, in whatever form that may be. The Westerlies on Lopez Island

Photo credit: Andrew Swanson

The Westerlies will be featured along with Sound of Late and the Skyros Quartet at our 2nd Annual Second Inversion Showcase at Folklife on Friday, May 27 at 8 p.m. For more information, please click here or RSVP to our Facebook event.

CONCERT PREVIEW: (re)MOVE: (re)TURN: Q&A with Karin Stevens

by Maggie Molloy

Throughout history, we have used the term “Mother Earth” to draw connections between the life-giving power of woman and the world, recognizing both as a source of life, love, and nourishment, both literally and figuratively.

And yet, throughout history we have also abused, neglected, and exploited both woman and the earth. We have inflicted countless physical, political, social, and symbolic injustices upon them, stripping them of their strength, power, and personal value again and again.

That is the premise behind Seattle-based dancer and choreographer Karin Stevens’ newest work, titled (re)MOVE: Back Toward Again the (re)TURN Facing. It is a 70-minute dance featuring music by three Seattle composers: Wayne Horvitz, Michael Owcharuk, and Nate Omdal. The work premieres this weekend with three performances at Velocity Dance Center on Capitol Hill.

All photos: Karen Mason Blair

Full of turbulent exchanges, (re)MOVE: (re)TURN pulls from thousands of years of scientific, philosophical, and spiritual writings on connections between women and the earth. Five female dancers from the Karin Stevens Dance company (KSD) weave patterns of separation and alliance, drawing connections between our bodies and the lands we inhabit.

We sat down with Stevens to talk about music, dance, women, and the rest of the world.

Second Inversion: How did (re)MOVE come about, and what was your inspiration for making contemporary composition such a prominent part of this project?

Karin Stevens Dance 2Karin Stevens: The choice to support live playing of the music with the dancing is more than a very cool experience for the viewer; it is a practice of listening, being open and in the now as a dancer, like no other time. And, there is nothing like the relationships that are built with the musicians and composers in these live music and dance projects.  

I can’t say that I was strategic in planning this evening-length dance weaved together with the three composers works, but that each part came at me and grabbed me to come into existence. I create my work through massive amounts of improvisation that I video tape. The movement guides me into form and meaning. The music by each composer came to me in different ways and spoke to me through kinetic images/ideas that emerged as I listened, about what this work was meant to be. It delight me that this work that came forward with such feminist and feminine voice reclamation is danced with the sounds by these three lovely male composers! 

SI: Can you tell me a bit more about the musical compositions in (re)MOVE?

KS: Composers Michael Owcharuk (thank you to 4 Culture for the grant for this new composition!) and Nate Omdal have written two gorgeous and unique works for KSD, that I have weaved together with a work by Wayne Horvitz to create re(MOVE). I am especially honored to work with Wayne Horvitz’s music. He is a hero to all of us. The music, These Hills of Glory (NEA American Masterpiece), is EVERYTHING I love about contemporary classical music: unique and imaginative compositional voice; disparate pairing of composed and improvised scoring (in this work); spaciousness and density of sound; daring rhythmic complexity; a diverse and unpredictable aural journey that connects with all of my senses.

SI: What inspires you most about classical music, and contemporary classical music specifically?

KS: I am a daughter of KING FM. For as far back as I can remember my Dad had it playing in the car, out in the garden, on our boat and in various rooms throughout our house. In fact, my parents live in Montana now and my dad still plays KING FM 24/7 from his home office computer! The soundtrack of my life was classical music.

I also had marvelous music experiences in graduate school at Mills College where I was introduced to even more music, especially contemporary classical music. I am extremely grateful to Second Inversion—a service of KING FM—and their effort to bring my work in dance with contemporary classical music to the public! I have long felt dance should be appreciated like great music. The abstraction, complexity, beauty, and texture should be as meaningful through movement as we have allowed it to be through sound.  

SI: In your writings, you discuss some of the specific injustices women face throughout the world, including sexual violence, female infanticide, female genital mutilation, removal from any possibilities of social and financial advancement, sexual exploitation and slavery, and much more. Can you tell me a bit about the broader feminist threads present in (re)MOVE?

KS:
This work is personal and it is feminist. It is a work for this eleventh hour time for the earth and for humanity. It is an art and practice of movement in contemplation of transcendent injustices, specifically in this work as it concerns women and the earth. 

Releasing myself from the tyranny of false beliefs, from the forces that denigrate the voice of the feminine, from the hegemony of my current cultural place, I (re)MOVE again in each (re)TURN to truly (re)BIND bones and tissues like a spiritual ligament to the essence of what really matters. As Pierre Teilhard de Chardin once said, “Driven by the forces of love, the fragments of the world seek each other so that the world may come into being.” These fragments of imagination here seek out what is being (re)FORMed and (re)TURNed. This movement flows toward hope through this turbulent exchange with our time and awakening. It is a movement of love.

Karin Stevens Dance 3

SI: (re)MOVE is also extremely spiritual. What were some of the spiritual and philosophical inspirations in creating this work?

KS: My readings in quantum entanglement, physics, general systems theory, and evolutionary biology have taken me into areas where the spiritual, philosophic, and the scientific interchange strengthen, rather than oppose each other. At the heart of this interchange is our movement that reconnects us with the natural world, with our self, with each other and with our evolution in this cultural time.

My personal religious experience has led me to deep questions about the absence of the feminine in the Abrahamic religions, and the egregious effect this has had on the evolution of our collective body and the earth, particularly in the West. Studies in Taoism, the Tao Te Ching, Five Elements/Movements and yin/yang theory of Chinese philosophy have given me a lovely place to explore ideas that heal the cracks in my Judeo-Christian experience.

In these spiritual philosophies I sought new movements I could repurpose toward my own becoming. I found connection: between human, heaven and earth; to the root of all the universe for which we belong; and to the “primal mother” that enthralls my curiosity and imagination.

Karin Stevens Dance FlyerSI: What are you most looking forward to with this premiere?

KS: It is a great honor to be able to raise enough money to work with live, local, and NEW music as a choreographic/movement artist. There are so many talented composers in Seattle plugging away, as I am, to make the music they are compelled to make. I feel a propulsion to get their work heard as much as I want to get my dances seen.

For more information about the project, please visit Karin Stevens’ blog series using the following links: Part I, Part II, and Part III.

Performances of “(re)MOVE: (re)TURN” are this Friday, April 22 at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, April 23 at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, April 24 at 6:30 p.m. All performances are at Velocity Dance Center on Capitol Hill in Seattle. For tickets and information, please visit this link.

CONCERT SPOTLIGHT: “The Way West” presented by the Universal Language Project

by Maggie Stapleton

“An event with music, words, and smoke inspired by the optimism and grandeur of the West.”

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Photo Credit: Kimberly Chin

Brian Chin has added something unique and fresh to the already forward-thinking music community in Seattle. The Universal Language Project is an innovative concert series rooted in the commissioning and performance of 21st century music and interdisciplinary collaboration. It turns the traditional classical music concert on its head by presenting the music in informal settings, premiering commissioned music by local composers, and collaborating with other art forms. AND! The experience doesn’t stop when the music ends; the audience is encouraged to mingle with the musicians and composers over a glass of wine afterwards to get a personal, inside scoop into the music.

Last season, ULP gave musical birth to works by Sean Osborn, Wayne Horvitz, and Jovino Santos Neto. (You can listen to them on our live concerts page!) Their new season kicks off this Friday, January 22 at Resonance Hall at SOMA Towers in Bellevue & Saturday, January 23 at Velocity Dance Center in Seattle and features musicians from Inverted Space, the contemporary music ensemble of the University of Washington. The program includes“Campfire Songs” by Brian Cobb (including a commissioned concert overture and a new piece to complete the cycle), “The Lone Ranger,” a theatrical work by Karen Thomas, and the commissioned premiere by young composer Tim Carey.

 

Second Inversion is proud to be a sponsor of this concert series. We’ll see you there on Saturday, January 23 at Velocity Dance Center!

 

 

“Migration Series”: Q&A with Derek Bermel

In anticipation of Seattle Symphony’s first Sonic Evolution series concert, “Under the Influence Of Jazz,” we had a chance to talk to Derek Bermel about his piece, “Migration Series,” which will be part of a star-studded program. The concert is tonight, Thursday, October 29 at 7:30pm at Benaroya Hall. Be sure to stop by the KING FM/Second Inversion table and grab some swag!

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Second Inversion: Do you think the fusion of genres in Seattle Symphony’s Sonic Evolution series is a good strategy to expand and diversify the audience?

Derek Bermel: Absolutely. I think when you can give audiences a hook to come see something they’re familiar with and then you hit them with something they’re not so familiar with, it’s a gentle way of exposing way them to music they might not know about.  I think it’s truly a groundbreaking series – I’ve been following what Seattle Symphony’s been doing for the last four or five years.  Ludovic Morlot and Simon Woods are looking at music and art holistically as it effects peoples’ lives and they’re looking at what’s going on locally and trying to build in pathways for people who are not normally familiar with symphonic music to get into the vibe.

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Roosevelt High School Jazz Band, who will perform “Migration Series” with Seattle Symphony

SI: The title of tonight’s show is “Under the Influence of Jazz.” How has jazz influenced your composition style as a whole? 

DB: I grew up listening to and playing a lot of jazz, so there was a lot of influence right from the start. I was and still am a huge fan of Thelonious Monk and I remember walking into the record store as a kid and seeing a bright red record in the bargain bin and spending my allowance on it.  That record, “It’s Monk’s Time,” really blew my mind and changed my life.  It coincided with the time in my life when my grandma bought me a small, “honky tonk” piano and I immediately started imitating Monk’s playing on this piano.  It really worked on this piano because it had some keys that didn’t go down all the way and it went out of tune quickly, but I really got that stride and feel by imitating Thelonious Monk.  I also played clarinet and saxophone in the jazz band and was listening to a lot of Bill Evans, Charlie Parker, Coleman Hawkins, Duke Ellington.

jacoblawrence

Jacob Lawrence

SI: And how about the visual artistic influence of Jacob Lawrence? Tell us about your experience with his set of paintings “The Migration Series,” and how it influenced this composition.

DB: I first encountered the paintings when I was young, going into the city (New York) with my mom and saw the exhibit.  There was something about them that struck me in such a deep way. I think it was my connection to African American music and my friends and I saw something in the paintings that felt like music and felt like dance. They jump off the page and they’re very evocative of gesture, shapes, colors, and movement.  I was very drawn to these pictures and they stayed in my mind for many years.  When I started to write this piece, there was something about the form and the way I was writing that had kind of a mosaic quality. I wanted musical themes, approaches, and rhythms to come back during the piece, and for the piece to ebb and flow with this mosaic quality.

I’ve been lucky enough that the Seattle Symphony and Maestro Morlot are interested in having the images displayed along with the show.  It’s an idea that’s been brought up before, but this time it’s actually going to happen!  I’m very excited see how the piece will play with the images.  For me, the thrill is to introduce more people to this artwork as well.  It feels very powerful as an artist to be able to make a tribute to another artist that you admire so much and to let people know about it. A lot of people have gotten to know Jacob Lawrence’s work through my piece, so that’s very gratifying for me as an artist.

And for a taste of the piece and Derek’s insights about the structure of the piece, take a listen!