ListN Up: Julian Terrell Otis (February 18, 2022)

ListN Up is a weekly series of artist-curated playlists that offer an intimate sonic portrait of contemporary artists by showcasing the diverse and stylistically varied music that influences their creative practice. 

Julian Terrell Otis is a creative vocalist/improviser, curator, and composer from Chicago, IL. He has been a featured vocalist on works by George E. Lewis, Nicole Mitchell, and Angel Bat Dawid. His interests have led him to championing the vocal works of composers like Julius Eastman and Ben Patterson. He is currently working on his Creative Capital project Resolved: Critiquing Contemporary Music Through Improvised Performance. You can check out his work on Bandcamp!

Hi everyone. My name is Julian Terrell Otis, and I am a tenor vocalist, improviser, and composer from Chicago, Illinois and I’ll be curating this week’s I CARE IF YOU LISTEN ListN Up Playlist. The theme that I chose for this playlist is Afrofuturism, and I have a little bit of a different take on the subject. I feel like Afrofuturism is a continuum of the past, present, and future, colliding together to create my present moment, my now. In each one of the tracks, you’ll either find different aspects of Black life, from the devotional aspects, to the wisdom aspects, to the painful aspects, and also the Revolutionary and celebratory aspects within the artists that I chose. The music represents some pieces that I would like to perform in the future, it represents collaborations with people that I currently work with it, and also samples a little bit of my own work. I’m also a curator as well for a series that I’m starting called the AFRIclassical series with two other collaborators at Elastic Arts in Chicago, and two of the tracks by Renee Baker and Elizabeth Baker are two artists that will be featured in the spring and in the summer. So if you’re ever in Chicago come check us out. I really do hope that you enjoy this playlist: it’s basically my sound world right now, and I hope you leave with a different perspective on Black life, on Afrofuturism, and that you walk away with some wisdom. Yo have a great great great great day. Peace and blessings .

Journey to Satchidananda by Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda

Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda’s music has the ability to surround you like a sonic hug of comfort for the soul. This particular version for me represents the cross-cultural intersections of devotion and the power of the collective human voice to elevate you to a higher plane. It is the past, present, and future.

Sometimes by Olly Wilson

This track from Olly Wilson is on my bucket list of pieces to perform. This interpretation of Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child is scored for tenor (the amazing William Brown) and tape. Wilson (founder of the Electronic Music Department at Oberlin) uses the extreme reaches of the voice, repetition, interrogation of the words and electronics to bridge the visceral pain of the African American experience with a spirit world that sees, hears, and responds to the cries of its children here on earth.

Mama Bet by Angel Bat Dawid

My dear sista Angel Bat Dawid’s track Mama Bet touches my heart. It uses electronics to usher you into her space world. In this short track, we experience the simplicity of childhood, the difficulty of life, and the practical wisdom laid out to overcome it. Did you get it?

Four Explosions Expanding From the Center by Elizabeth A. Baker

The next track is New Renaissance Artist The Honorable Elizabeth A. Baker’s Four Explosions Expanding From the Center. Her piano playing expresses undulating build-ups to new worlds and sonic explosions that remind me of the speculative world of Octavia Butler’s Parable Series, somewhat familiar and unfamiliar at the same time. But somehow the journey lands the listener comfortably back at home amongst the stars.

Excerpt from Intercession, performed by Julian Terrell Otis, Margaret Morris, and Scott Rubin

This excerpt of Intercession is from a devised work I presented with Margaret Morris and Scott Rubin a few weeks before the pandemic. The piece is an open improvisation for voice, movement, viola, and electronics in response to Anthony R. Green’s Empathy I: Diamond Reynolds, girlfriend of Philando Castile who was killed by police in the Minnesota area.

We Cannot Be Afraid/Kindness Recitation by Renee Baker, performed by Anthony R. Green

We Cannot Be Afraid/Kindness Recitation is a visceral vocal piece that serves as a meditation and sonic physicalization in Anthony R. Green’s interpretation of Renee Baker’s graphic score and instructions. The text inspiration being from a poem, An Ex-Judge at the Bar (Melvin Tolson), one contemplates the ramifications of Lady Justice laughing at the contemplation of a state sanctioned murder. The lynching of a Black man.

New Track by Francis Bebey

I want to wrap up this playlist with a piece by Cameroonian composer, writer, and multi-instrumentalist Francis Bebey. New Track blends the acoustic and electronic to express Black Joy as Declarative, Revolutionary, Trans-National, Traditional, Forward Thinking, and most importantly, Living with a Beat!


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