Camae Ayewa and Marian Anderson

As part of the exhibition Citizen Salon, the Arthur Ross Gallery commissioned a new poem by Camae Ayewa to honor Marian Anderson (1897-1993), the celebrated Philadelphia-born classical singer and civil rights activist. Camae Ayewa performed this new work on February 27, 2019, on the anniversary of Anderson’s birth.

Listen to Camae Ayewa, February 27, 2019, Arthur Ross Gallery:

For this performance, Keir Neuringer composed a new musical piece titled For Marian Anderson (The Whole World) based on research conducted with Anderson’s personal sheet music and score collection at the University of Pennsylvania’s Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books, and Manuscripts. This musical composition was performed by Ashley Tini on vibraphone and Veronica MJ on viola.

Robert Savon Pious, Marian Anderson, 1942
Oil on canvas
Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts
University of Pennsylvania

This performance was recorded by Eugene Lew from Penn’s Music Department. For the final two weeks of Citizen Salon, this was presented in the Arthur Ross Gallery as a temporary sound installation.

The University of Pennsylvania Office of the Provost generously funded this project, with additional support from Penn’s Center for Experimental Ethnography and Department of Music. Camae Ayewa conducted research at the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts, along with Keir Neuringer. A special limited edition of an excerpt from Camae Ayewa’s poem was printed through Penn’s Common Press.

Camae Ayewa (Moor Mother) is a poet and the author of the book of poetry Fetish Bones, published by the Afrofuturist Affair (2016). Fetish Bones shares the same title as her debut album by Moor Mother released on Don Giovanni Records. Her poetry is rooted in a practice she has created called “Anthropology of Consciousness,” which invokes an understanding that spiritual energy is not stagnant but continuous in every dimension as spiral and boundless information. Her poetry is ageless, intergenerational, and not outside of, but through the bounds of time. Her poetry recovers that which we have been forced to forget and realigns ancestral meridians that serve as our guides to our inner and outer worlds throughout existence.

Camae’s practice offers great synergy to this research-based poetic project, as she has critically examined Marian Anderson’s personal and professional life.

Camae Ayewa (voice), Veronica MJ (viola) and Ashley Tini (vibraphone)

Keir Neuringer is a Philadelphia-based saxophonist, composer, and writer whose work is underpinned by interdisciplinary approaches and socio-political contextualizations. He is best known for a personal and intensely physical saxophone technique, revealed through long form solo improvisations, as well as collaborations with a multitude of world-renowned and underground practitioners in jazz, avant-garde, noise, classical, theater, and dance disciplines. He has travelled extensively to present his work, appeared on numerous festival stages, and given workshops throughout Europe and North America. In addition to the saxophone, he plays analogue electronics and Farfisa organ, narrates text (most notably with Dutch new music group Ensemble Klang), and composes largely outside of conventional new music scenes. He trained as a composer and saxophonist in the US, spent two years on a Fulbright research grant in Krakow, and then moved to The Hague, where he lived for eight years, curating performative audiovisual art and earning a masters degree from the experimental ArtScience Institute. Originally from New York State, he settled in Philadelphia in 2012, where he lives with his family and advocates against prisons as a member of the Books Through Bars Collective.