Roulette is proud to present the world premiere of Joseph C. Phillips’s mono-opera The Grey Land, which explores themes of humanity and identity in relation to race, class, and power through the lens of a black mother’s experiences navigating American society with her son. The Grey Land ruminates on longstanding systemic societal, economic, and cultural issues exemplified by the recent spate of police shootings and subsequent protests, and how they have become part of a wider public consciousness. Phillips integrates a variety of writings, film, dance, as well as dramatic elements in order to advance a non-traditional narrative that embraces the social multitudes and “dichotomies of high and low, inside and outside, tradition and innovation” within black culture. The piece features 28-piece orchestral ensemble Numinous, as well as soprano Rebecca L. Hargrove, choreography by Edisa Weeks, and film and video work by Malik Isasis & Xuan Zhang.
Joseph C. Phillips Jr. Composer, Conductor
Rebecca L. Hargrove, Soprano soloist
Kenneth Browning, Narrator
Malik Isasis & Xuan Zhang, Video/Film
Edisa Weeks, Choreography
Michael Hammond, Electronics
Jay Bouey, Dancer
Numinous is a flexible and unique ensemble that was founded in 2000 by composer Joseph C Phillips Jr. to perform his music. The musicians in Numinous have also performed with: Steve Reich, Bang on A Can All-Stars, Signal, Alarm will Sound, Björk, Sting, Stevie Wonder, ICE, Newspeak, Laurie Anderson, John Zorn, Victoire, Asphalt Orchestra, New Jersey Symphony, Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society, Houston Symphony, Maria Schneider Orchestra, Henry Threadgill, and many other contemporary ensembles and artists. Part chamber orchestra, part big band, part contemporary alternative group, Numinous deftly and organically transmutes inspiration from contemporary classical, jazz, world, and popular music as well as cinema, literature, and science. Through its many performances—such as at Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM)’s Next Wave Festival, the Ecstatic Music Festival and Merkin Concert Hall, (Le) Poisson Rouge, Roulette—and critically well-received recordings The Music of Joseph C. Phillips Jr. (2003, Numen Records), Vipassana (2009, innova Recordings) and Changing Same (2015, New Amsterdam Records), Numinous reflects Phillips’s musical philosophy of mixed music; the term is inspired by mixed race people who have traits and characteristics that come from each individual parent, from the melding of the two, and their own uniqueness. Mixed music is an organic fusing of various artistic and cultural influences into one distinctive and singular vision. Numinous and Phillips’s music generate emotions in the listener that resonate with beauty, mystery, and wonder in order to challenge, enlighten, and refresh.
The compositions of Joseph C Phillips Jr. are not limited or defined by any one genre but rather are an amalgamation, transmuted into a singular and individual style. Phillips calls his style, mixed music; the term is inspired by mixed race people who have traits and characteristics that come from each individual parent, from the melding of the two and their own uniqueness. Mixed music is an organic fusing of various elements from many different influences, forming compositions that are personal, different, and new. He has received a NewMusic USA project grant, an American Composers Forum Jerome Foundation grant for New Music, a Meet the Composers Creative Connections grant, an American Music Center CAP grant, two Live Music for Dance commission grants, two Puffin Foundation grants, and was a finalist for both the Sundance Institute of Film. Composers Lab Fellowship and the Opera Company of Philadelphia Composer-in-Residence. In addition to the worldwide performances of his works, including the Steve Reich Festival in The Hague, Netherlands, new works have been commissioned by the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) Next Wave Festival, the Kaufman Center and Ecstatic Music Festival, pianist Lara Downes, the NextNow Fest for the Invoke String Quartet, Simone Dinnerstein and the Neighborhood Classics Concert Series for Face the Music, Dave Douglas and the Festival of New Trumpet Music (FONT), the Rhythm in the Kitchen Festival, Concrete Temple Theatre Company, St. Olaf College, University of Maryland, University of Denver, Edisa Weeks and the Delirious Dance Company, Take Dance Company, Maffei Dance Company, and a number of other musicians and ensembles.
The Grey Land is made possible by a grant from the American Composers Forum with funds provided by the Jerome Foundation and, in addition, is also supported by New Music USA.