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MIND THE GAP: Reflections on Beauty

Creating a musical story of Madam C.J. Walker and the strong communities she fostered in America at the turn of the 20th century.


PUBLIQuartet is seeking funding to self-commission a collaborative composition as part of a series titled MIND THE GAP: “Reflections on Beauty”. MIND THE GAP (MTG) is an original performance concept developed by PUBLIQuartet in 2011. This dynamic and thought-provoking music series encompasses varying genres, styles, and eras reimagined and recomposed through group improvisation and composition. This particular work would chronicle the life of the first female African-American self-made millionaire in America, Madam C.J. Walker, through a convergence of music, poetry, and literature. From her origins as an uneducated washer-woman in St. Louis, to her final residence in Harlem, Madam Walker’s legacy as a massively successful hair-care business owner, philanthropist, social activist, and educator has had both deep roots and lasting influence in Harlem and in African-American communities. In honor of the 2019 centennial anniversary of her death, PUBLIQuartet will work directly in collaboration with Madam Walker’s great-great-granddaughter, A’Lelia Bundles, to create a unique and unforgettable performance experience, which, ideally, will be premiered in Harlem for the community. Madam Walker’s life is a story of hardship, perseverance, and triumph. It is a story that deserves to be told, and PUBLIQuartet’s multi-faceted composition will make it a story to be remembered. MIND THE GAP (MTG): PUBLIQuartet’s collection of fourteen unique MTGs appear regularly at nearly every concert in their season. MTGs have been performed over 180 times in over 100 concerts across the country. PUBLIQuartet has garnered recognition for this series with the creation of a new position on the Concert Artist Guild roster (2013) New Music/New Places, the Adventurous Artist Award by CAG (2013), the CMA/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming (2015), and CMA’s Visionary Award (2019). Early MTGs range from modern Bach to fusions of Stravinsky and Thelonious Monk or Debussy and Charlie Parker. The most recent MTGs explore current political issues including institutionalized racism and sexism. GOALS: PUBLIQuartet plans on creating this multi-media work of at least 12 minutes in length by connecting the various musical styles in and around where Madam Walker traveled. Saint Louis, Indianapolis, Denver, and Harlem fostered some of the most iconic and now-celebrated artists in Rag, Blues, Gospel, Jazz, and opera. In addition, a recording to be made of A’Lelia Bundles speaking quotations of Madam Walker and related poetry will be processed into sound-design and transformed into a backing-track to accompany future live performances. Schedule and funding-permitting, A’Lelia will attend the premiere in late 2019, ideally in Harlem, to host a panel-discussion, and perform her recorded backing-track material live alongside PUBLIQuartet. PUBLIQuartet would integrate this piece into their repertoire and perform it regularly across the country. PERSONAL CONNECTION: The members of PUBLIQuartet feel passionately about this project because they have collective backgrounds in improvisation, blues, jazz, and Rag through family, upbringing, and cross-cultural connections. Because of their varied backgrounds and unique ability to create compelling improvisation pieces, PUBLIQuartet finds themselves telling the stories of these musicians in classical concert settings, which often means exposing communities to cultures and music not often explored.

Project Media

MIND THE GAP: “What is American?”
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MIND THE GAP is an original concert concept developed by PUBLIQuartet that reimagines and recomposes music of varying genres, styles, and eras through group composition and improvisation.

“What is American?” is inspired and based on the iconic “American Quartet” by Antonin Dvorak. He incorporated Native American, folk music, and Black Spirituals into his original piece. We infused this with our own American Music influences: Blues, Jazz, Rock and Roll, and even a little Hip Hop. This piece was premiered in 2017 at the MET Museum.

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OWN was conceived through frustration, shame, pain, and hope in 2016. We chose four historical songs that touch on poignant social justice issues currently plaguing America. Inspired by jazz, protest, pop, and prison hollers, these songs expose the history of body-and-mind ownership in America and honor the marginalized who fought to be “free”. These songs are “Strange Fruit”; a suffragette anthem, “Female Suffrage”; Lesley Gore’s 1950s hit, “You Don’t Own Me”; and prison holler, “No More My Lord”. In collaboration with the Mannes Orchestra.

Start and End Dates



New York City, New York

Project Created By

New York, New York
PUBLIQuartet members:  Curtis Stewart, violin | Jannina Norpoth, violin | Nick Revel, viola | Hamilton Berry, cello Applauded by The Washington Post as “a perfect encapsulation of today’s trends in chamber music,” and by The New Yorker as “independent-minded,” PUBLIQuartet’s modern interpretation of chamber music makes them one of the most dynamic artists of their…

In Collaboration With

Historical consultant, orator (spoken words recording and potential performance), panel discussion MC
co-composer, co-producer, arranger, co-engraver
co-composer, co-producer, recording engineer, sound-designer, engraver
co-composer, co-producer
New York, New York


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