New York’s Fridman Gallery announces the release of composer and sound installation artist Yvette Janine Jackson’s album Freedom, comprising her ground-breaking Radio Operas Destination Freedom and Invisible People. The album is to be released as a collector’s vinyl edition, featuring sleeve notes by acclaimed African American cultural critic Gregory Tate, with cover design by contemporary artist Nate Lewis.
Borrowing strategies for immersion from American radio drama, in particular John Cage’s The City Wears A Slouch Hat, Jackson’s Radio Opera’s performatively combine music concréte, spoken word and field recording, and are designed to be experienced in darkness, in order to animate the theatre of the mind. Jackson’s work has involved the search for an African American aesthetic for electroacoustic music that speaks to all people in order to foster conversation about contentious subjects.
Destination Freedom unfolds in three intertwined scenes: the cargo hold of a tall ship transporting Africans to the Americas; a disorienting journey that traverses time; and the arrival into the weightlessness of outer space. The work was derived from Jackson’s research into the stories of enslaved Africans, which involved looking at everything from diagrams about how to pack human cargo into ships, to trade routes, to listening through oral histories of those born into slavery. Destination Freedom contains instrumental excerpts performed by Jackson’s chamber ensemble Invisible People. During the sessions, musicians played traditionally notated and visual scores and engaged in both guided and free improvisations. The traditional instruments are often manipulated to represent non-instrumental sounds (e.g. strings pitched down and time-stretched to resemble ships) and conversely the sound effects assume a musical role. Creaking bedroom doors, banging from the heater vents, and underwater field recordings from Mission Bay boat slips and the boardwalk in Pacific Beach, are placed rhythmically and in counterpoint with other sounds.
nvisible People is based on the negative outpouring from African American communities that followed President Barack Obama’s approval of marriage equality in 2015. Jackson aimed to explore different perspectives and media on the topic. The ‘libretto’ is taken from numerous spoken-word and published sources including sermons, speeches, religious literature, reparation therapy brochures and internet trolls. This work comments on the historical exclusion of women and queer people from community leadership roles. Posing the question of whose voices had been left out of this conversation, Jackson called the piece Invisible People.
Jackson’s work engages multiple periods of time, sometimes simultaneously or out of order, which is characteristic of Afrofuturism. While Destination Freedom is squarely rooted in the African American struggle, it also embarks the listener on a journey toward an abstract concept of freedom. Invisible People is both a pointed remonstration of specific political voices and an exploration of the media landscape as readymade free jazz.