In 1971, the newly established EPA created Project Documerica, an initiative that commissioned outstanding photographers across America to document the state of the environment and its impact on society. The result was an archive of tens of thousands of photographs amassed over nearly a decade. In spite of its historic and cultural significance, this massive artistic project had been largely forgotten until recent digitalization made it more accessible. Forty years after its advent, the imagery of Project Documerica is the inspiration for ETHEL’s Documerica, which taps the archive’s evocative potential and brings its visual and emotional impact into dialogue with the 21st century.
ETHEL’s Documerica is a meditation on America’s relationship to our land, our resources and ourselves. Scheduled for performance as part of Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Next Wave Festival in October 2013, the program is a multimedia performance that melds multiple screen video projections with original music by some of today’s most exciting composers, performed with electrifying virtuosity by ETHEL.
Directed by Steve Cosson, ETHEL’s Documerica juxtaposes manipulated vintage visuals with contemporary musical compositions. This piece is a musical meditation accompanied by big sky vistas, ghost towns, mountains, and slices of urban environments, capturing America’s complicated relationship to its land. New music by the members of ETHEL, as well as by acclaimed composers Mary Ellen Childs, GRAMMY Award-winning jazz drummer Ulysses Owens, Jr., Jared Impichchaachaaha’ Tate (Chickasaw Nation), veteran-activist and blues maven James “Kimo” Williams, is paired with stunning visuals by renowned projection artist Deborah Johnson.
Launched in 2007, ETHEL’s TruckStop® explores, unites, and honors indigenous communities, cultures, and music. TruckStop® takes ETHEL on the road and around the globe to create innovative new work through rich collaborations with established and emerging artists from diverse genres, traditions, and geographic regions by means of community-driven residencies and locally hosted performances. Explore the power of music as a common language through this one-of-a-kind project and become the next TruckStop®.
ETHEL’s Foundation has developed a robust commissioning program for mid-career and established composers, which in ten years has generated more than 40 new works from diverse voices including Phil Kline, Julia Wolfe, and Neil Rolnick.
The Foundation also commissions innovative emerging composers, and to that end, we recently launched ETHEL’s HomeBaked to commission younger artists who live and work in ETHEL’s hometown of New York City. ETHEL’s HomeBaked captures new and distinct flavors in the quartet’s own artistic research kitchen. Commissioned artists to date include Andy Akiho, Anna Clyne, Hannis Brown, Lainie Fefferman, Dan Friel, Matt Marks, Ulysses Owens Jr., and Judd Greenstein.
Native American Composers Apprentice Project (NACAP). Since 2005, ETHEL has been quartet-in-residence at NACAP, a project of the Grand Canyon Music Festival. Every September, ETHEL tours schools on Navajo and Hopi reservations in the Four Corners region to work with young Native American composers. Some 25 students compose their own string quartets. ETHEL coaches the young artists, rehearsing and polishing their pieces which are performed at schools and youth centers, with a culminating concert at Grand Canyon National Park. The body of NACAP work now totals more than 250 compositions. ETHEL has performed NACAP music in Germany, Mexico, Holland, Australia, and all across the United States. Additionally, NACAP pieces feature prominently in ETHEL’s other educational residencies. Young musicians from Chicago, IL to Hobart, Tasmania have studied and performed the music of these gifted young Native Americans.
Residency Program for Young Native American Composers: Modeled after the Grand Canyon Music Festival’s Native American Composers Apprentice Project (NACAP, see above) this program offers young Native American composers throughout North America the opportunity to further develop their musical voices through the process of writing music for the string quartet. ETHEL guides each young artist through the entire compositional practice, from harmonic outline and thematic development, to score editing and rehearsal techniques. Special emphasis is devoted to notation, publication and recording considerations. Premiere performances of student compositions are professionally recorded, and each program participant receives a printed score and parts of their piece(s).
* Affordable residency activities: The Foundation helps to support a range of residency activities to inspire and encourage younger musicians. These programs include lectures, workshops, performances and master classes at colleges, music schools and universities. Topics include improvisation, composition, and collaboration.