The Latest Update
Testing Acoustics in Akwaaba Mansion’s Ballroom | Juliette x Jarvis
After touring the Akwaaba Mansion for our salon series kickoff, our next step was to test the acoustics in the prospective performance space (Juliette excerpting an original work, Jarvis excerpting Bach). We worked with our engineer to estimate any recording challenges and were excited at how much “give” the room offered in our solo play-throughs. We’re all the more excited to get the full ensemble in and to share this work with community.
–Juliette and Jarvis
Our Salon Has a New Home at The Akwaaba Mansion!
We’re thrilled to announce that we have partnered with the well-beloved Akwaaba Mansion, in Bed Stuy (Brooklyn) to launch our new salon series. The restored 1860s mansion was purchased and renovated by the co-owning husband and wife team Glenn Pogue and Monique Greenwood. They led their vision with boundless imagination and a dream understood by very few, but they saw a disparity in their community and committed themselves to innovation, solution and expansion.
Our work is similarly rooted in connection and collaboration so when we learned about the space, we immediately we knew that we needed to tour this richly historical landmark in the heart of Brooklyn. We were welcomed with open arms, a crackling fire and warm smiles. We knew right away that we had found “it.” We took our time to explore the space, feel the presence of possibility that we’ve been working so hard to create and even had an opportunity to bring our instruments to test the acoustics of the space! Every single sign pointed to an overwhelming “Yes!” so our next step is to schedule a follow-up site visit with our piano tuner, our recording engineer who will record the salon for later publishing, as well as our guest vocalist for our pilot edition, Drea D’Nur.
We’re so grateful for this major step forward in bringing our community vision to fruition!
–Juliette and Jarvis
In August 2017, I conceived and co-curated a new performance event titled “Jukebox: Strings x Turntable (A Live Orchestral Mixtape).” The performance explored artists from the canon of Black American music, all hand-selected by the performing members of Rootstock Republic: myself (violin and composition), Jessica McJunkins (violin), Jarvis Benson (viola) and personnel management), James Douglas (cello), Chris Johnson (double bass), Riza Printup (harp), Raydar Ellis (DJ & Turntables) and Steve Lucin (Projection and Live Curated Visuals). From a list of about 60+ songs, Jarvis and I partnered with our resident DJ, Raydar Ellis, to examine common threads in and effort to begin to weave a thoughtful set and to shape a container to create new orchestration for the familiar works. We sought out to create a new and engaging platform to reimagine the look and use of strings in this 60-minute DJ’ed set, accompanied by live projection and audio-reactive visuals; with a nod to celebrating string players of color, past and present.
“Jukebox: Unplugged”–the acoustic extension of of “Jukebox: Strings x Turntable (A Live Orchestral Mixtape)”–is a new seasonal, salon series that seeks to create and celebrate new work, living composers and arrangers, and also uplift community; using music as a platform to expand our reach. A series of this nature has a multi-fold purpose rooted in: 1) helping to reshape and redefine the narrative and trajectory of new music–as a composer, a performer and through audience cultivation, 2) building intentional platforms to create performance opportunities for string players of color and players systemically marginalized from the larger performance community, 3) cultivating unique, sustainable relationships with artists whose access to working with strings has been limited, and 4) offering free and sliding scale to folks in our immediate communities.
Using my brownstone in Bed Stuy as the flagship location for the salon, “Jukebox: Unplugged” will invite one prominent guest artist each season, and reimagine their work with newly composed arrangements and orchestration for String Sextet (@ Violins, Viola, Cello, Bass and Harp). Using Justus P. Seeburg’s ‘Selectophone,’ a revision on his 1928 Audiophone jukebox (modeled after the juke joints of the Gullah Islands), we will format the evening as a 10-song set. We will host 50 folks from the community free of charge, with the option to donate to future installations of “Juekbox.”
I, along with managing member, Jarvis Benson, am deeply committed to honoring the voices contributing to our current-day musical canon; and we are invested in being storytellers and bearers of truth, using music as a guide, tool and resource to uplift our widely diverse narratives and share by engaging with our community.
Cue 11:00-14:35; I, along with Jarvis Benson, fellow managing member of Rootstock Republic, were invited to contract the string quartet to partner alongside the dynamic and newly-formed duo, Violents & Monica Martin for a series of live performances and broadcasts, including NPR’s ‘Tiny Desk’ series. Working with Violents (aka Jeremy Larson) and Monica Martin (PHOX) was rooted in two of our core and founding principles: community and collaboration. This performance represents the spirit of the salon we are excited to curate and present!
We were invited by our dear friend and long-time collaborator, Tamar-kali, to partner on the score for the wonderfully-acclaimed new release, ‘Mudbound.’ In December 2016, Tamar invited Rootstock Republic to offer music prep (transcription and editing), contract the session musicians and record her original score. She framed her request as wanting the session to feel like ‘family.’ We carefully chose players who believe in uplifting community through music and treated the session more like a salon: not just playing, but telling a story.
In curating our debut performance of “Jukebox: Strings x Turntable (a Live Orchestral Mixtape)” at Joe’s Pub this past August, we opened the show with a projection-based dedication to string players of color. In thinking of how best to score the visual, we decided to take a handful of some of our favorite arrangements (7-8 cues) scored for a wide range of artistic partners (music, dance, theater) over the past five years, re-frame them as stand-alone compositions and remix them in a jukebox of our own, to create a new composition altogether.
Start and End Dates
12/10/2018 — 06/30/2019
Brooklyn, New York