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Sound & Appliqué Commissions

Born out of the desire to foster cultural curiosity, Castle of our Skins celebrates Black artistry through music.


In October 2020, Castle of our Skins will join the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) in honoring the 100th anniversary of the women’s suffragist movement and celebrate the power of women’s voices through the following activities:

1.) World premiere chamber works inspired by the African American quilting tradition in a multifaceted concert experience

This full-length concert, tentatively titled “Sound & Appliqué,” will include world premiere works for flute, piano and strings inspired by the African American quilting tradition. An international call for proposals was held by Castle of our Skins in the fall of 2018. The three winning composers – Renée Baker, Elizabeth Brown and Lauren McCall – will receive their premieres in October 2020.

In addition to chamber music performances, fiber art and spoken word poetry (related to historical accomplishments of women) will be woven into the concert experience. The entire concert experience will be curated to include music, quilts, spoken word and visual arts celebrating the accomplishments of women throughout history, with a special focus on Black women’s suffrage and the power of one’s voice.

2.) A market gallery showcase

Black women fiber artists will be invited to showcase their quilts and artworks for display and purchase. In addition to creating an economic opportunity for several artists, Castle of our Skins will commission one woman – Chicago-based quilter Alpha Burton – to create a new work. Alpha’s quilt will be musically complemented by Renée Baker’s new composition.

3.) A pre-concert historical lecture

L’Merchie Frazier, noted fiber artist, historian, and Director of Education and Interpretation of the Museum of African American History in Boston, will present a lecture contextualizing both the importance of quilting in the African American community and Black women’s struggle for equity within the women’s suffragist movement.

4.) An interactive quilt-making workshop for youth

In collaboration with L’Merchie Frazier, the National Center for Afro-American Artists in Roxbury, and the musiConnects music organization in Mattapan, Castle of our Skins will present a quilt making workshop for elementary-aged youth. The workshop will be two-fold to include a “musical quilt making” session hosted by Castle of our Skins teaching artists and an “African American quilt making” session by L’Merchie Frazier. Works created in this workshop will be displayed during the concert experience at the MFA.

The artistic goals of this project are to:

~Inspire composers of all racial/ethnic backgrounds to explore the tradition of quilting within the African American community as a source for musical inspiration.

~Honor the rich history of concert music in Black culture by presenting works of established and emerging Black female composers, both well known and lesser programmed.

~Create an inspiring, cross-disciplinary, high quality event as a result of collaboration.

~Engage a diverse audience in cultural exploration, interaction, and dialogue through multi-sensory access points (visual, auditory, tactile/kinesthetic).

Project Media

Island Nocturnes for flute, french horn, violin, viola, cello, and piano (2017)
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Features: Elizabeth Brown

Composer Elizabeth Brown will compose a 8-10 minute small chamber work entitled “Housetop” for flute, string quartet, piano, and spoken voice, inspired by the Gees Bend Quilters. The text will be written by Louisiana Pettway Bendolph, one of the most active of the current quilters, who speaks beautifully and clearly about her creative process.

Elizabeth’s “Island Nocturnes,” commissioned by the Bridgehampton Chamber Music Festival, is a comparably sized ensemble also drawing inspiration from a non-musical source: “The Tempest”.

“No Safety in Silence” (2017) by Renee Baker for string quartet, clarinet, piano, and baritone (please begin at minute 6:23)
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Using African and African American motifs, Reneé C. Baker will compose a multi-movement work entitled “Mastering Necessity: A Story Quilt.” This work will endeavor to deliberately and consciously use African oriented themes, rhythms, and sharply contrasting colors to stitch together a sonic ‘quilt.’ The work will be scored for strings, piano and percussion and be paired with original quilts – which will also be commissioned by Castle of our Skins – by Chicago artist Alpha Burton. “No Safety in Silence” was commissioned by Castle of our Skins.

“Juba” for string quartet by Trevor Weston
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Castle of our Skins has an active relationship with contemporary composers, often collaborating with those still alive. In December of 2019, Castle of our Skins welcomed composer Trevor Weston to the campus of Longy School of Music at Bard College for a multi-day residency. The capstone event was a portrait concert of his chamber works. While this proposal does not include the music of Dr. Weston, this video shows the level of excellence, artistry, and capability of Castle of our Skins musicians as chamber players skilled in contemporary music.

Start and End Dates



Boston, Massachusetts

Project Created By

Boston, Massachusetts
Born out of the desire to foster cultural curiosity, Castle of our Skins celebrates black artistry through music. From classrooms to concert halls, Castle of our Skins invites exploration into black heritage and culture, spotlighting both unsung and celebrated figures of past and present.  Castle of our Skins (COOS) designs interactive educational programs examining different aspects and figures in black…

In Collaboration With

Artistic/Executive Director & Violist
Boston, Massachusetts
Associate Artistic Director
Red Hook, New York
Chicago, Illinois


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