The Showroom
Event

Fortnightly Highlight 9: 
IN·​FLO·R​ES·​CENCE

Dear friends,

Music has been central to a number of conversations during lockdown. But for some, like Filmmaker Producer Reece Ewing, it became a catalyst for something else. Namely, a larger enquiry into what it takes to generate jazz as an art form in isolation, or better say, what it means to produce within the limits of a media and the chances we are offered to exceed those limits. From those initial thoughts and commissions, and a collaboration with ingenious Assistant Curator Katherine Finerty, comes IN·​FLO·R​ES·C​ENCE – The Showroom’s first project conceived as a digital platform, which in centring jazz in an art space – or a more fluid version of it, aims to offer more pathways for a practice that already yields different worlds and narratives. 

For The Showroom, considering music as an art object is hardly new. In its more than 35 years of history, this organisation has galvanised audiences around sound and music as part of its commitment to foster collaboration, criticality, and community in the production of unconventional art and discourse.

This interdisciplinary project sits within that context, resonating across creative fields and geographic borders, bringing together art, sound, agency, and social justice. It advocates for music’s and technology's power to expand their remit as storytellers. What is the imaginative and technical state when one aims to create a piece of jazz? By exploring this question, IN·​FLO·R​ES·C​ENCE addresses the capacity of music as a source of poetic knowledge, but also the possibility of merging it with different fields of practice.

I would like to thank both Reece and Katherine for their extraordinary energy and rigour, their bravery and imaginative thinking; the composers for allowing us to thrive through their music and all the other aspects that make every composition possible; Elio Villafranca for opening his creative process to these ten magnificent universes; and all the collaborators, for allowing us to transcend the possibilities of each of their media, in formulating what we know will be unexpected encounters, compositions, and a set of fantastic conversations.

We welcome you to listen, embrace the pauses, detain yourselves in the silences, and engage with tempos and crescendos. We welcome you to be transported, to be sent.

Warmly,

E

Elvira Dyangani Ose
Director, The Showroom

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IN·​FLO·R​ES·C​ENCE is a new online platform for audiences to encounter compositions and conversations where sound and art can cross-pollinate and regenerate.

Championing the power of jazz, this project fosters freedom, experimentation, improvisation, rhythm, polyrhythm, collaboration, dialogue, and sophistication – hard work fueled by epiphanies, a call and response. Social power. Sonic power.

IN·​FLO·R​ES·C​ENCE started as an initiative to support musicians and composers in a small way during the COVID-19 pandemic – to connect expressions of everyday life during the unique conditions of our time; highlighting the joy and healing power of music amidst waves of disease, fear, and injustice. By transcending a focus on music as entertainment and celebrating sound as an enduring form of rhizomatic storytelling, this project functions as a platform to support musicians in taking up space in the art cosmos and express more pathways for creative practices of sound and art to collide – to summon collective memories, produce future imaginaries, and build a new community.

In this current moment of self-isolation and social distancing, how can we continue to collaborate, voice our fears, express our joys, ask hard questions, and create solace – together? Through participatory and expansive modes of connection, ​IN·F​LO·R​ES·C​ENCE ​will create a constellation – an inflorescent cluster – filled with multiple voices, active listening, a poetic source of knowledge, and a resonant echo. A space to breathe, listen, create, and connect.

Curated by Reece Ewing and Katherine Finerty

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TRAILER

In its introductory digital stage, ​IN·​FLO·R​ES·​CENCE exists as an unfolding social media platform across Instagram, Vimeo, and our website whereby audiences can discover music compositions, interdisciplinary conversations, listening sessions, and behind-the-scenes creative inspirations. Each of the participating composing musicians (​J.D. Allen​,​ Bokani Dyer​, Sarathy Korwar​,​ Nduduzo Makhathini​,​ Siya Makuzeni​,​ Elaine Mitchener​,​ Corey Mwamba​, Thandi Ntuli​,​ Luis Carlos Pérez​, and ​Leyanis Vald​é​s Reyes​) were invited to create a piece for solo piano around 1 minute in length responding to the changes to daily life during the global coronavirus outbreak. These individual pieces will all be interpreted and performed by the project’s first Artist-in-Residence, Cuban New York-based Pianist, Composer, and Band Leader Elio Villafranca​, throughout the duration of the project.

These musical offerings will be activated by the commissioned musicians through recorded conversations between each other, Journalist ​Kevin Le Gendre​ (Broadcaster and Writer of Don't Stop the Carnival: Black British Music​, 2019), and a group of creative professionals whose practices are deeply informed by sound, including The Showroom Director and Curator ​​Elvira Dyangani Ose​​; Jazz Musician ​​Jason Moran​​; Composer Pianist ​​Vijay Iyer​​; Theorist and Filmmaker ​​Kodwo Eshun​​; Curators Christine Eyene and Temi Odumosu, multimedia Artists including ​​Phoebe Boswell​, ​Andrew Pierre Hart​, Evan Ifekoya, Laura Lima,​​ and​ ​Charmaine Watkiss;​ ​and more. The community created will flower into multiple, growing conversations serving as a living archive for expanding jazz within personal, collective, and creative contexts.

WATCH: A trailer about this new online platform

LEARN: More about the participating composers

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ARTIST IN RESIDENCE

IN·​FLO·R​ES·​CENCE’s Artist-in-Residence Elio Villafranca is a Steinway Artist, Pianist, and Composer. During his current process of interpreting and playing the 10 commissioned compositions, he reflects that ‘​Every piece has very distinct characteristics, oscillating between classical, jazz, avant-garde music styles, and others from the Afro and classical Indian music diaspora. I’m learning a lot through the process of interpreting the pieces composed for this project... Such a wide range in the music approached by these artists expands my own musical horizons’​.

Villafranca was born in the province of Pinar del Río, Cuba, is a two-time Grammy nominee, winner of the 2018 Downbeat Critics Poll Rising Stars (Keyboard), and a recipient of the first Jazz at Lincoln Center (JALC) Millennium Swing Award in 2014. Villafranca was classically trained in piano, percussion, and composition at the Instituto Superior de Arte in Havana, Cuba and since his arrival to the U.S. in 1995 he’s been at the forefront of today’s pianists and composers, fusing classical and jazz with music from the African diaspora. Based in New York City, Villafranca is a jazz faculty member at The Juilliard School of Music, Manhattan School of Music, New York University, and Temple University in Philadelphia.

LISTEN: To a personal introduction by Elio and a conversation between him and Journalist ​Kevin Le Gendre. A selection of the pianist’s own musical compositions and performances are to follow on the IN·​FLO·R​ES·​CENCE webpage over the weekend.

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SONIC POWER

I wanted to invite composers and musicians into an important discussion around culture and identity and representation – to discuss their individual practices and how they interact with the local and global creative and non-creative communities. Music is very much an epicentre of all of the world’s cultures. Moreover, this project explores music as a way to communicate ideas. It covers music as inspiration. Music as ritual. Music as communication, codes. Music as cultural connection and exchange. Music as healing. Music as activism. Music as I see you…

The art space as a space for gathering, communion, sharing, critical discussion, scholarly discourse, joy, provocation, and the love of art – all ideas which music makers and storytellers have always been at the core of.

Reece Ewing​

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Main image credit: Different types of Inflorescences. Arten cymöser Blütenstände: A Dichasium, B Wickel, C Schraubel; Strasburger, Noll, Schenck, Schimper: Lehrbuch der Botanik für Hochschulen. 4. Auflage, Gustav Fischer, Jena 190; scanned 17 July 2006.

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