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Where We Find Ourselves: The Photography of Hugh Mangum

5 members needed
SATB, SSAA, SAB, 2-part Mixed
A new work to be composed by Michael Bussewitz-Quarm
Difficulty: 3 · Medium
Length: 4-20 mt options
Releases on Aug. 1st 2021
Must be funded by Jul. 31st 2021
$150 / ensemble

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This project will include…

PDF score
9-month premiere window
Score guarantee


Please note, this is a recently commissioned song cycle now in its second season. Curriculum for Winter and Spring 2022 . • Support New Music • This project is befitting of the time we live in – a strong message relating to acceptance and subverting the narrative from a hundred years ago • 5 songs, 4 minutes each (program one, several, or all five songs) • Reduced participation fee to adapt to compromised budgets (please help spread the word, if you can!) Team includes: • Margaret Sartor and Alex Harris, photographers, curators, authors • Dr. Sherry Boyd, Humanities Professor, North Lake College • Shantel Sellers, author and lyricist • Michael Bussewitz-Quarm, composer • Tina Sayers, Mapleseed Creative Consulting, LLC. 10% of composer’s commission fee will be donated to National Association of Negro Musicians (NANM provides encouragement and support to thousands of Black American musicians, many of whom have become widely respected figures in music and have contributed significantly to American culture and music history.) VIDEOS: Discover the Journey MUSIC: Rehearse and Sing! 5 movements for a total of 20-22 minutes, based on portrait photos from Hugh Mangum’s collection. Participants may choose to program one movement, multiple movements, or the entire song cycle. This will provide an online option to allow for continuity of the project in the event the school year is interrupted. This project is also cross-curricular, and each choir will receive additional PDF sheet with prompts for the subjects of History/Social Studies, Language Arts, Photography/Art. Rehearsal tracks will be made available. Margaret Sartor and Alex Harris will be providing additional photographs from Hugh Mangum’s collection so that each choir can present a video montage of the photos for their virtual or live performance of “Where We Find Ourselves”. 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: Lyrics by Shantel Sellers with Michael Bussewitz-Quarm, inspired by the panel discussions with Margaret Sartor and Alex Harris of The Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University, Dr. Sherry R. Boyd, and Tina Sayers.


I. Would You Know Me By My Hat?

Do you see, do you see my velveteen hat?
Ostrich feathers standing tall,
Gonna live to see my children fly
Higher than me, high above Jim Crow.

Do you see, do you see my cavalry hat?
I bought it with my blood and sweat.
We rode out, we happy few,
A westbound wind upon our backs.

Have you seen, have you seen me in this hat?
If I raise the brim and point my chin,
Or let it slide above my eye,
Would you see beneath my gaze?

Do you see, do you see the workingman’s hat?
American, immigrant
Every hole a possibility,
Every stain a step toward freedom,
A golden land where brighter dreams may come.

Would you know, would you know,
Would you know me by my hat?
When I slip beneath the waves of time,
Would you hold me longer in your eyes
And know me for your own?
Would you know, would you know,
Would you know me by my hat?


Hey, Jack
Comb it back,
Tone it down,
Rake it up, make it fit,
Cut it off.
Better keep it short,
Hiding who you are.

Gibson girl,
Where’s your curl?
Straight ain’t great.
Tie the rags, fry the bangs,
Sweep it high.
Better grow it long,
Hiding who you are.

Scorching it,
Torching it,
Singe the fringe,
Smooth it down.
Don’t forget the lye,
The everlasting lie.

Hot iron flat,
Curl like that.
Burning to belong,
Yearning to be me.

Hot iron flat,
Smooth like that.
Singe away the sin,
The burning of your skin.
Burning to belong,
Yearning to be me.

Yearning to be free.

III. Would You Know Me By My Work?

We shall speak to you of strength
In the face of grief and sorrow.
We shall speak to you of hope
And courage for tomorrow.

Through our eyes we call to you.
We have read you in the stars,
Distant shores drawing near,
Timeless voices from afar.

We shall speak to you of work,
A doctor’s hands, a mother’s heart,
City street, and farm and field,
Forging dreams from bricks and earth.

There is sweat on the brow
And joy in the living.
A calloused hand is hard,
But there is softness in the giving.

What shall we leave you,
Our children yet to be?

Standing on our shoulders,
Breaking through the borders.

These things we leave you,
Our children yet to be.

IV. Scars

You see me as through water,
Seeking light and life and breath. (A long, dark night of disregard.)
What lies inside the ocean
Of times you’ll never see,
Through this veil of mystery?

Days of peace there were,
Morning joy and reverent night.
We wrapped them up in velvet,
Pinned them high like stars.
We pinned them high like stars.

There were days of war,
Cannons broke the bell.
We buttoned up our sorrows,
Yet we could not hide our eyes.
We could not hide our eyes.

A sign that I was hurt,
(Give them grace.)
As sign that I was healed,
(A moment’s grace.)
More hauntingly beautiful
By the waves of time’s passage.

Meet us where we are,
Not only where you’ve been.
You fear the scars,
Now feel the scars;
Taste the salt of tears
And broken skin.

V. Memento Vivere

When I slip into the waves of time,
Would you hold me longer in your eyes
And know me? Know me!
Remember who we are.
Remember life, remember joy.
Let us sing to the mystery of life!

Every soul a candle,
An ancient lullaby
Summoning the stranger,
Embracing who we are.
This is where the road is leading,
This is where we find ourselves.

A thousand voices rising up
Into one song, a new song.
Beauty forged in fire,
Rising from the flame.

Memento Vivere!
Remember who we are.
Remember life, remember joy.
Let us sing to the mystery of life!

About Michael Bussewitz-Quarm

The choral music of Michael Bussewitz-Quarm (pronouns: she/her) engages singers and audiences with the leading social and environmental issues of our time. Michael is passionate about effecting change through choral music on topics ranging from the health of the world’s coral reefs to the epidemic of gun violence in the United States to the global refugee crisis. Michael is an active advocate for the transgender community. It is her fervent wish to spread knowledge and understanding of the transgender community through guest speaking and by simply being present in the lives of the talented musicians and artists surrounding her. A finalist for the 2019 and 2020 American Prize, Ms. Bussewitz-Quarm’s works are performed by leading professional and educational choral ensembles across North America. Recent collaborations include the west coast premiere of The Unarmed Child by Eugene Concert Choir and Orchestra, I’ll Fly Away at the International Society of Contemporary Music’s New Music Days in Vancouver, BC, and Nigra Sum, performed by The Duke University Chorale on their California tour. Michael’s works have been rebroadcasts on Public Radio East, KMUZ, and WCPE, with performances by Singers of New and Ancient Music, musica intima, the Gregg Smith Singers, the Duke University Chorale, the Esoterics, among other exceptional choral ensembles. Michael is published by Peermusic Classical. Current projects include Peacebomb, inspired by Laotian families who make jewelry from metal taken from unexploded ordnance, Where We Find Ourselves, a pandemic-proof choral project inspired by the portraits of Hugh Mangum, and The Death and Life of AIda Hernandez: A Border Story, based on the book of the same name that tells the story of an undocumented teen’s harrowing experiences with the U.S.’s militarized immigration system. Ms. Bussewitz-Quarm attended Ithaca College (BM ’94), for piano performance and music education, and received her MM from the Aaron Copland School of Music, Queen’s College in New York. For more information, visit her website, Bookings: To Book, contact Michael through email at or through Michael’s contact page:

Other projects by Michael