“The distance between then and now, them and us, is a lot closer than we might expect.”
5 songs in a cycle, based on portrait photos from Hugh Mangum’s collection. Choose to perform one, or all five.
This is a Blended Project - created for ONLINE and/or LIVE experience.
10 Journeys (These will not have to be in this specific order)
Journey One, "Meet with Michael and Chantal": 30 minute Live Zoom Session with the composer and lyricist with Q&A
Journey Two, "Hugh Mangum & His Photo Collection”: Michael and Chantal discuss the photo collection and book with one of the authors of “Where We Find Ourselves”. [pre-recorded discussion to be released in September]
Journey Three, “Hats": Michael and Chantal discuss accessories in the photo collection with one of the authors of “Where We Find Ourselves”, and share their own! [pre-recorded discussion to be released in September]
Journey Four, “Jim Crow Laws, Race & Portraits”: Michael and Chantal discuss the power of Hugh Mangum’s art and how it subverted societal norms with one of the authors of “Where We Find Ourselves”. [pre-recorded discussion to be released in September]
Journey Five, “Journey with Margaret and Alex”: LIVE meet the author-photographers who brought Hugh’s portrait collection to the world through the photo exhibition and book, “Where We Find Ourselves”
Journey Six, “Unison Melody”: Sing the initial melody as a unison piece for the upcoming commissioned piece, “Where We Find Ourselves”. [pre-recorded. Video and .pdf of unison melody to be released during the fall season]
Journey Seven, “Hair”: Michael and Chantal discuss hairstyles and fashion in the photo collection and book with possible special guest and share their own feelings about their hair. [pre-recorded discussion to be released in September]
Journey Eight, “Scars”: Michael and Chantal discuss scars and damage to the glass negatives in the photo collection with one of the authors and how all these scars shape our understanding of the past and present. [pre-recorded discussion to be released in September]
Journey Nine, “Acknowledgement Tree”: Michael and Chantal discuss the tree that brought Hugh and his photo collection to their doorsteps with one of the authors of “Where We Find Ourselves” [pre-recorded discussion to be released in September]
Journey Ten, “Memento Viveri”: Michael, Chantal, Margaret, and Alex discuss identifying with their own work and with Hugh Mangum’s work.
Bonus Journey, “The Selfie”: Plans are being developed to include a BONUS photography project of self-portraits. Input welcome.
Season Two: Rehearse and Perform
“Where We Find Ourselves” music by Michael Bussewitz-Quarm, lyrics by Chantal Sellers (released 1/11/21)
I. Would You Know Me by My Hat?
II. Would You Know Me by My Hair?
III. Would You Know Me by My Scars?
IV. Would You Know Me by My Work?
V. Memento Vivere
Synced rehearsal tracks will be provided. For video performance (either with live choir or virtual choir), Margaret Sartor and Alex Harris will be providing additional photographs to present as a montage as the choir sings.
Some composer travel available if restrictions are lifted. (travel, lodging, appearance fees to be negotiated, if interested)
please read Margaret Sartor’s interview excerpt below for attributions to the above quotes.
"Hugh Mangum’s striking and insightful portraits offer a unique sightline into the lives of a wide range of people at the turn of the twentieth century, a turbulent time in the history of the American South. Even in the best of times, trust and empathy are rare between strangers; in an era of racial terror, the evidence of these feelings in Mangum’s portraits of people from all walks of life throughout North Carolina and Virginia, is remarkable. And the lives behind these portraits, like the scattered facts we know about the artist, are, in many ways, the more compelling for their incompleteness. The gaps in our understanding lead us to consider more carefully what we know or, more importantly, what we think we know. Hugh Mangum’s attentiveness to the details of his sitters’ dress, demeanor, and expression created portraits that allow us, by scrutinizing those details, to see into the deeper, invisible layers of human complexity. Or, as the poet Marianne Moore put it, the outside looked at hard enough is the inside."
"Part of the mystery and loveliness of these images is precisely that boundary between what we know and what we can only imagine or hope. Published here for the first time, Mangum’s portraits and his multiple image glass plate negatives confirm how collections of historical photographs have the power to subvert traditional historical narratives. His portrait of the people of the American South during the rise of Jim Crow confounds the idea of the “color line” and the accepted narrative of separate black and white worlds."
"Mangum’s clientele were racially diverse and from a wide range of economic backgrounds, and his multiple image glass plate negatives indicate that an unbiased and open-door policy existed in his studio. In an era of violent Jim Crow segregation, this racial diversity is surprising; that Mangum’s portraits are also as insightful, as democratically seen—as existentially revealing as they are—is extraordinary. The people in these portraits stare back at us across a hundred years of time’s passing, through the indelible marks of damage and disregard and yet, in their familiarity and personal presence, these individuals seem as though they stepped off the sidewalk into Mangum’s studio only yesterday. We may think the difference of a century considerable, but these portraits suggest that the distance between then and now, them and us, is a lot closer than we might expect. Hugh Mangum’s photographs point to the possibility of a better world than the one we thought he lived in, a world that may only have existed in the eyes of Mangum or people like him. His vision offers us a welcome perspective, a new way to imagine the way it was—and how we might see our way to the future.”
Margaret Sartor, The Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University
To see some of the photos, and more about the exhibit at Nasher, please go to: https://nasher.duke.edu/exhibitions/where-we-find-ourselves-the-photographs-of-hugh-mangum/