LETTER TO MY FATHER (in three parts) is the fourth movement of COLORING BOOK. This recording comes from our workshop performance at MASS MoCA in August 2015.

Coloring Book

ensemble vocal octet (SSAATBBB)
duration 30 minutes
written for Roomful of Teeth
commission Barlow Endowment for Music Composition
premiere October 2015, SONiC Festival, Brooklyn NY
publisher Unsettlement Music
recording coming soon

They will never, so long as their whiteness puts so sinister a distance between themselves and their own experience and the experience of others, feel themselves sufficiently human, sufficiently worthwhile, to become responsible for themselves, their leaders, their country, their children, or their fate.
— James Baldwin, “An Open Letter to My Sister, Angela Y. Davis” (1970)

notes Coloring Book is a collection of 5 songs for the vocal octet Roomful of Teeth. We workshopped the music as part of Teeth's 2-week residency at Mass MoCA in August 2015, and premiered it in October 2015 at National Sawdust as part of the SONiC Festival. A recording by Roomful of Teeth is in the works for a 2017 release. 

TEXT

1. The game of keeping
    [The position of my white neighbor is much more difficult.]
No brown specter pulls up a chair beside me when I sit down to eat.
No dark ghost thrusts its leg against mine in bed.
    [The game of keeping what one has is never so exciting as the game of getting.]                                          

Zora Neale Hurston
from “How it feels to be colored me” (1928)

2. You are not the guy
And you are not the guy and still you fit the description because there is only one guy who is always the guy fitting the description.

Each time it begins in the same way, it doesn’t begin the same way, each time it begins it’s the same. Flashes, a sired, the stretched-out roar—

And you are not the guy and still you fit the description
            –roar—
still you fit the description because there is only one guy who is always the guy fitting the description.

This is what it looks like. You know this is wrong. This is not what it looks like. You need to be quiet. This is wrong. You need to close your mouth now. This is what it looks like. You can’t drive yourself sane. You are not the guy.

And you are not the guy and still you fit the description because there is only one guy who is always the guy fitting the description. Get on the ground now. Then I just knew.

Yes officer rolled around on my tongue, which grew out of a bell that could never ring because its emergency was a tolling I was meant to swallow.
                                                                                               
Claudia Rankine
from Citizen (2014)

3. What feels
What feels more than feeling?
You are afraid there is something you are missing, something obvious.
A feeling that feelings might be irrelevant if they point to one’s irrelevance
pulls at you.
What feels more than feeling?

Claudia Rankine
from Citizen (2014)

4. Letter to my father
Him. He
He has only heard what I
I felt. He
He is far away but I
I see him.
Him but dimly across the ocean and the continent that have fallen between us.
Us. He
He is so pale with his whiteness then and I
I am so colored.
Music. The great blobs of purple and red emotion have not touched him.
He is so pale with his whiteness then and I
I am so colored.
               

Zora Neale Huston
from “How it feels to be colored me” (1928)

5. Your people
Your self and your people are indistinguishable from each other,
really, in spite of the quarrels you may have,
and your people are all people.
                                                                       

James Baldwin
 from an interview with James Elgrably in The Paris Review (1984)


WORKS


LARGE WORKS WITH VOICES

Coloring Book (2015, 30 min.)
vocal octet
The Source (2014, 65 min.)
7 instruments, 4 voices
Sound from the Bench (2014, 40 min.)
mixed choir with 2 electric guitars and percussion
Partition (2010, 20 min.)
mixed choir with full orchestra
Katrina Ballads (2007, 60 min.)
11 instruments, 5 voices


ORCHESTRA

Dispatches (2015, 18 min.)
large orchestra
Respirator (2015, 13 min.)
chamber orchestra
Stem (2013, 25 min.)
large orchestra
Law of Mosaics (2012, 30 min.)
string orchestra
First World (2012, 7 min.)
large chamber orchestra
Erasure Scherzo (2012, 6 min.)
large orchestra
Word for Word (2011, 10 min.)
large orchestra
Build a Room (2010, 20 min.)
concerto for trumpet and orchestra
Patriot (2007, 9 min.)
large orchestra


SOLO

DaVZ23BzMH0 (2016, 7 min.)
solo cello, with electronics
Parlor Diplomacy (2011, 20 min.)
solo piano
Nobody's (2010, 4 min.)
solo violin


CHAMBER MUSIC (2-5 instruments)

The Answer to the Question That Wings Ask (2016, 11 min.)
string quartet and narrator
Furtive Movements (2013, 14 min.)
cello and percussion
Interlude for Fingers (2013, 4 min.)
two vibraphones
Licorice Men (2011, 8 min.)
electric guitar quartet
Thaw (2009, 12 min.)
percussion quartet
Vessels (2008, 10 min.)
violin, viola, piano
Ghostspace (2009, 8 min.)
accordion, electric guitar, piano, drums
Crib Dweller (2007, 8 min.)
bass clarinet, trumpet, horn, trombone, elec. guitar
Warning Song (2006, 7 min.)
voice and cello, with electronics
23 (2005, 8 min.)
flute, horn, elec. guitar, piano, drums
One of Us, One of Them (2005, 8 min.)
piano and percussion
Forcefield (2004, 5 min.)
viola and vibraphone

CHAMBER MUSIC (6-13 instruments)

For the love of Charles Mingus (2016, 9 min.)
6 violins
Baby [an argument] (2016, 11 min.)
10 instruments
By-By Huey (2014, 10 min.)
6 instruments (vln, vc, fl, bcl, pno, perc)
"The Cage" Variations (2014, 20 min.)
6 instruments (fl, cl/bcl, vln, vc, pno, perc) with baritone solo
Crispy Gentlemen (2012, 15 min.)
7 instruments (fl/picc, cl/bcl, vln, vla, vc, pno, perc)
But I Voted for Shirley Chisholm (2012, 8 min.)
11 instruments, with electronics
Randos (2012, 8 min.)
7 instruments (L'Histoire septet)
Cutest Little Arbitrage (2011, 12 min.)
6 instruments (2 sax, trombone + rhythm section)
Is it Dirty (2010, 8 min.)
16 instruments with 2 singers
(alternate versions for 10 and 6 instruments)
Eyelid Margin (2009, 12 min.)
10 instruments (brass quintet + 5 double-reeds)
Snowball (2008, 6 min.)
8 instruments (bcl, tpt, tbn, vln, acc, egtr, pno, dr)
7 instruments (alt. version for L'Histoire septet)
Illuminating the Maze (2008, 15 min.)
6 instruments (tpt, hn, tbn, egtr, pno, dr)
Music from "Body Soldiers" (2008, 10 min.)
5 instruments with singer
Cordavi and Fig (2007, 8 min.)
13 instruments
Antiphon (2003, 8 min.)
9 instruments (3 cl, bcl, 3 tpt, tbn, pno)


CHORAL MUSIC

Coloring Book (2015, 30 min.)
Consent (2014, 7 min.)
Ripple (2012, 10 min.)
Privilege (2009, 14 min.)
Mass for St. Mary’s (2008, 10 min.)

Music for youth choir:
Room for Something (2011, 8 min.)
Away (2010, 6 min.)
Because (2006, 6 min.)
Murder on the Road in Alabama (2003, 6 min.)


SOLO VOICE

Intimacy and Resistance (2010, 5 min.)
voice and piano
Charleston Songbook (2008, 20 min.)
voice and piano w/ lead sheets
I Remember (2007, 8 min.)
for three sopranos, or one soprano w/ electronics
I Carry Your Heart (2007, 5 min.)
voice and piano


COLLABORATIVE WORKS

Hand Eye (2015)
New Dances for the League of David (2014) 
You're Causing Quite a Disturbance (2013)
R WE WHO R WE (2013)
Histories (2012)