Few artists are as deserving of the label “creative musician” as is Joe McPhee. A multi- instrumentalist, composer, poet, conceptualist, and theoretician celebrated for his contributions to free jazz, McPhee continues—at an exuberant 79 years young—to seek new articulations of music’s rich universal language through improvisation. Although his odyssey has taken him through Deep Listening collaborations with Pauline Oliveros and countless left field improv sessions both within and way outside of the jazz tradition, McPhee is perhaps best known for Nation Time, a 1971 album made in tribute to poet Amiri Baraka that stands as a defining monument to the civil rights era. McPhee’s own poetry, which he sometimes reads in performance and has published in Blank Forms’ journal, is steeped in the same political urgency and cosmic love that permeate his music. It is in this role as a poet that McPhee will perform as part of Observations at Night.
Blank Forms has curated a program of music and poetry as part of Josiah McElheny’s new solo show, Observations at Night. McElheny’s sonic sculpture, “Moon Mirror,” will function as both an acoustic reflector and an open stage-like platform for performances, as part of an exhibition of optically dynamic paintings and sculptures inspired by cosmic revolutionary figures like Joe McPhee and Sun Ra Arkestra singer June Tyson. Tyson’s optimistic communication of the potential for world-building beyond the painful alienation of presiding earthly visions serves as the focal point for the series’ interrogation of how music and poetry might illuminate new pathways of resistance to our troubled political climate. An international assembly of artists from a diverse spectrum of creative improvising idioms have been selected to use McElheny’s parabolic structure as a catalyst for explorations of both acoustic feedback and social interaction between performers and audiences from heterogeneous cultural spheres. Featuring performers pulling inspiration from black American free jazz as well as experimental music, deep listening, and folk traditions of Korean, Japanese, Iraqi, Indonesian, and Persian music, the surreal convergence of mysteries of light and sound proposes that we might today not only pass through what can feel like a dream or nightmare state but find something here, visible or audible in the twilight that can lead into a cosmic future.