Afterword, the AACM (as) Opera

Afterword, the AACM (as) Opera at Roulette Photo: Ross Karre.

One of the landmark events marking the 50th anniversary of Chicago’s Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) has been the MCA Studio’s two performances of Afterword, the AACM (as) Opera, a work composed by IICSI researcher George E. Lewis and held October 16 and 17. The work combines chamber opera with real-time improvisation, featuring Joelle Lamarre, Gwendolyn Brown, Julian Terrell Otis, Douglas R. Ewart, Discopoet Khari B., Ann E. Ward, Coco Elysses, Otis Harris, Zachary Nicol, and Ninah Snipes. Lewis writes, “Founded on the South Side of Chicago in 1965, the AACM has long played an internationally recognized role in American experimental music. Afterword functions not as a history of the collective, but as a “Bildungsoper”—a coming-of-age opera of ideas, positionality, and testament. The libretto is drawn from my 2008 book, A Power Stronger Than Itself: The AACM and American Experimental Music (University of Chicago Press), a chronicle showing how artists and musicians assumed central roles in forging new models of black identity and social activism. What I call the AACM’s “unstable polyphony” of voices, at once independent and in harmony in imagining the future of music, is the inspiration for Afterword, my first experimental opera, and where interpenetration of subject with artistic method becomes a vital touchstone for operatic experience.”

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