Tenor Lawrence Brownlee presents the West Coast premiere of a new song cycle, coupled with a classic from the repertory, in a San Francisco Performances concert this Saturday night. Cycles of My Being, with music by multi-instrumentalist Tyshan Sorey, and lyrics by National Book Award-winning poet Terrance Hayes is inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement.
There’s more information at the San Francisco Performances website.
Brownlee says he had been performing with his friend, jazz pianist Jason Moran, when they began talking about the need to take hold of the cultural conversation in their own way. “It was about two years ago when it seemed that every time we opened up the newspaper or looked on the internet that we were seeing incidents of police aggression, things that didn’t seem to be right. The treatment of African American men in this country has always been problematic, and we were just reminded over and over. So that’s how the piece came to be.” MacArthur Fellow Tyshawn Sorey has written a score that is rhythmically complex, and Terrance Hayes raises some of the questions that many African Americans have been asking: “America, I see you hiss and stare. Do you love the air in me as I love the air in you?” Brownlee says: “Many of us are very patriotic, we love this country, but we know that we face a different reality than someone that has blue eyes and blonde hair.” On the pairing with Dichterliebe, he says it’s a good fit. “I think both song cycles keep your attention. It challenges me as a performer to try to have some type of throughline in both pieces, but also make a complete disconnect from one piece to another.”