The Postmodern Spiritual is a twenty first century extension of the freedom song. Music composed and performed to speak to our present circumstances, individually and for the community. It is healing music to alleviate the aftereffects of these situations on the mind, soul and spirit in today's world. Musically it re-imagines and revives the Negro spiritual by incorporating jazz sensibilities with soul and black church music . Along with new compositions likened to its predecessor, the Postmodern Spiritual is freedom music for the 21st century.
Since slavery we have had the Negro spiritual, understanding its existence as a form of lament, protest, spiritual inspiration, and coded communication. Based on the belief that there must be justice somewhere, somehow, Negro spirituals gave a voice to the condition of an enslaved, oppressed people in the hopes that a change would come. Its usage from the time of the Underground Railroad to the Civil Rights Movement helped invigorate the spirit of a people striving for freedom.
The Postmodern Spiritual is a current attempt to utilize that same strength and hope in order to counter the lack of physical, mental and spiritual liberty that people all over the world still struggle to achieve. Along with the physical and political oppression experienced during slavery and throughout history to the current acts of dehumanization, we also need to address a different and hidden type of oppression. The underlying oppression which comes from uncertainty in a constantly changing world, everyday efforts "to be" and thrive, and even to work out a simple existence. A struggle that is fought universally by all who do not have the benefit of privilege and status.
Life in the postmodern world is rich in technological advances; we have moved away from the absolute and objective truths that seemed to hinder us from living as free people. We are, however, without spiritual anchors and cultural/ethical signposts, burdening us with modern-day stressors that are not assuaged by mass culture and cultural artifacts. Reasoning and intellect are sufficient for analysis but are insufficient in acting as the remedy. We must address the point where circumstance presses hard on the soul.
The postmodern spiritual was birthed out of observing the need for a transcending, empowering, curative music again. That which could show we can believe in freedom of mind and “to be”; against all contrary empirical evidence based on reason & logic. An artistic expression that would instigate a mobilization of courage and a "standing tall" posture in the face of overwhelming opposition. Music that would apply a healing balm to the wounds inflicted by indifference, hate and circumstance. Music that would celebrate the humanity and dignity in all of us, and to elevate those who Howard Thurman characterized as having their "backs against the wall” - the disinherited of our world.
Like the jazz of Coltrane, this music pushes toward self-realization and uplifting of mankind. Like the Negro Spirituals and gospel sung by Fannie Lou Hamer, the enslaved and the protestor, it has the same fervent faith. Like the soul music of Steve Wonder, this music is a chronicle of and a commentary on our everyday joys, injustices, and triumphs. This melding is achieved while keeping intact the resolute conviction that compelled Harriet Tubman to bring her people to freedom and the perseverance that the heroes of the Civil Rights Movement displayed against all odds. Again, the postmodern spiritual is the freedom music of the 21st century.
The Postmodern Spiritual is the re-imagined Negro spiritual as transformed through the genres of jazz, black church music and soul music that proceeded from those early songs of freedom. This music tells a story with the use of jazz language and improvisation that is juxtaposed with simple folk themes as melodies, that can be described as “neo-folk” in its character underpinned at times by modernistic harmonic structure. Like the Negro spiritual, it has lyrically vivid imagery that is performed with the fervor of gospel music and the elegance of soul music. The music uses structured forms and is sometimes episodic but is open for expression in duration, mood, tempo, and on-the-spot interpretation that is familiar to the aforementioned music expressions.
The music is intended for all audiences in a variety of contexts, but is especially suited for concert presentations in colleges, art centers, museums, cultural institutions, churches, and concert halls. It can also be presented alongside lectures and workshops on related subjects as well as in collaboration with dance, video and live art.