Holding Up The Ladder
Have you ever asked yourself the question - what is music? Does nature around us - the birds, the trees - make music? What is music supposed to do? I had never thought of these questions (and I didn’t even plan on asking them) until I spoke with my guest today, composer Alexander Liebermann.
Alexander is an award-winning composer, arranger and educator who trained at Musikhochschule Hanns Eisler in Berlin, at New York’s Juilliard and is currently doing his doctorate at the Manhattan School of Music. Alexander’s work is wide-ranging, he writes for ensembles, choral music, orchestras, solo instruments, film scores and how I discovered him, transcribing animal sounds.
We talk about Alexander’s childhood raised in a household of musicians. His composition process, how his lockdown pastime of transcribing animal sounds has not only impacted his composition writing but other musicians. We talk about why a lot of his work centres around nature and climate change, but that he always desires to convey a hopeful message- that hope and positivity can be more effective tools to engage people rather than fear and cynicism.
We talk about how the classical music emphasis on technique and virtuosity isn’t always as important as the story or the passion a musician is trying to convey. We talk about how multi-faceted art and the artist is - as Alexander says, a line I love, 'critique is very easy, but art is difficult’.
My conversation with Alexander wasn’t about finding or establishing answers, for me it was - and why I love doing this podcast - about someone creating work that caused me to consider the world around me in a new way. And as this series is about creative ways to bring about social change, is it possible to do so in joyful and unburdened ways, in ways that inspire fascination and curiosity? I think Alexander has inadvertently done that. Isn’t that what art can do - bypass the mind and go straight to the heart?
Guest: Alexander Liebermann
Title: What is music?
Music on playlist: Erwin Schulhoff, Hot - Sonate
Featured music by Alexander:
Cello Sonata, II, Lento (feat. Raphaël Liebermann)
Erwachen follow the score here
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13. Makoto Fujimura & Haejin Shim01:17:43We have come full circle and reached the end of season 3 - time really flies! I started this season expressing my desire to talk about social justice, racism and discrimination. I gave the example of the Japanese art of Kintsugi - the broken vessel that is mended to make new. And who better to talk about these Kintsugi ideals than the person who introduced me to this concept, return guest, artist Makoto Fujimura. This time he joins me with his incredible wife, lawyer and justice advocate Haejin Shim. This episode was so powerful and whilst it was recorded sometime in June, the themes remain ever-relevant. We talk about the ways in which beauty, art and justice intersect. Can beauty be found in justice, can art be used as an instrument for justice? What does justice really mean? We talk about faith and beauty. Beauty not as perfection, it’s not cosmetic - but beauty as a journey - a journey into the new. And we can’t talk about beauty without talking about sacrifice and suffering - suffering that leads to what Mako calls ‘generative love’. I have so much to say about this episode, so much that it’s better that I just say less and you listen and draw your own conclusions.Guests: Makoto Fujimura & Haejin ShimTitle: Beauty, Art & JusticeMusic on playlist: Susie Ibarra, Walking on WaterMakoto Fujimura Links:BioWebsiteIGTwitterKintsugi AcademyCulture Care PodcastBooksHaejin Shim Links:BioIGEmbers International WebsiteEmbers International IGShim & Associates Law FirmTo Learn more about Airbnb's work with Afghan Refugeeshttps://www.airbnb.org/refugees
11. Yvadney Davis01:09:47As we continue our conversations about the ways in which art and creativity can be used to bring about social change, I wanted to talk about how normalising the ordinary can actually be a form of activism. I’m joined by kids’ fashion stylist, blogger, lecturer, start-up entrepreneur, artist, wife and mother of two, Yvadney Davis. We talk about normalising the black family, a family that is happy and healthy with children who are free to be themselves outside of the racist and burdensome tropes of anti-blackness. How raising children who are free to play and be curious - free to be children - is in fact an act of radical resistance.We talk about Yvadney’s journey into styling, about the creative personality that isn’t linear, that loves exploring and learning new things. We talk about how to have frank conversations with children about racism in an age appropriate way. We talk about the world of mum bloggers, that according to Yvadney is, ‘absolutely nuts’ and why she wanted to set up her own blog Mum’s that Slay. We talk about some of the tokenistic and profiteering responses to George Floyd’s murder and how Yvadney felt compelled to speak out against the hypocrisy of it all. We talk about the creative personality. We about the tech start up she launched with her husband during the pandemic - Musingobingo - an online music bingo game, I’ve played it a few times it’s really really fun! Yvadney is a bit of a hero of mine - as a friend, I see how she raises her kids, how she juggles all her different roles it’s her realness that inspires me - there’s so much pretending and curating of our lives - Yvadney is honest when it’s hard, she rejoices at the small everyday wins and I watch her raise two quirky, free, unburdened black children with her husband and it inspires no end. The ordinary is for me extraordinary.Guest: Yvadney DavisTitle: My activism is showing us thrivingArtists on playlist: Alfa Mist; H.E.R.; Robert Glasper; DeBarge; Leikeli47Yvadney's links:Styling - IG: @Yvadney and Twitter: @YvadneyMum's that Slay Blog and IGYvadney's Art - YvadneyDavisArtMusingobingo - Website Instagram TwitterRadio Show - Vibes and StuffTo Learn more about Airbnb's work with Afghan Refugeeshttps://www.airbnb.org/refugees
10. Topher Campbell01:14:41ADVISORY: This episode contains adult themes unsuitable for younger audiencesIn this week’s episode of HUTL we’re talking about the idea of radical homelessness. Where do we find home? What does home mean? Is home a physical or geographical location, is it a state of being or is it both? And how does this idea of home manifest itself within the context of black queer masculinity?! To help me answer some of these complex questions, I’m joined by artist and filmmaker director, filmmaker, writer, broadcaster, and theatre practitioner Topher Campbell.Topher Campbell’s practice spans broadcasting, theatre, performance, writing, experimental film and site-specific work. His focus has been on sexuality, masculinity, race, human rights, memoir and climate change. In 2000 he co-founded rukus! Federation a Black Queer arts collective with photographer Ajamu X. We talk about pro-blackness, pro-blackness that doesn’t mean anti-white, it’s not anti anything, it’s ‘pro’. It is as he and Ajamu X sought to do with rukus! Federation moving away from the idea of black people as victims and more about redefining and repositioning themselves publicly. We interrogate the idea of home, of belonging. For Topher, belonging doesn’t mean approval but rather ‘how you bear witness to your existence’. We talk about why he chose to walk through the streets of New York naked for his 2014 film Fetish. A kind of artistic response piece to the police murder of 12 year old Tamir Rice in 2014. Topher loves to walk through cities, this idea that something so mundane can be for the black body a surveilled, unsafe, violent place. How, as Topher explains, the Black body is never neutral.Guest: Topher CampbellTitle: The Black Body is never neutralArtists on playlist: Dudu Pukwana, Fela Kuti, Earthgang, Spillage VillageSupport his film EncountersFull BioIMDB page Social Media Links:IGTwitterLinks to Topher's work:rukus! Federationrukus! Federation ArticleTopher Campbell and Billy Bragg article in The IndependentSussex University Graduation SpeechFilms:The HomecomingInvisibleLearn more about Airbnb's work with housinghttps://www.airbnb.org/
9. The Temple of Her Skin01:31:11Who gets to tell stories, who gets to tell your story? How does story relate to the body? What are the stories our bodies tell? These are some of the questions I delve into through the prism of African women, tattoos and scarification, with my guests today Laurence Sessou and return guest Jessica Horn (catch Jessica in S01 Ep. 7 of HUTL) founders of The Temple of her SkinJessica and Laurence, two African women hailing from East Africa and Benin in West Africa respectively were inspired by their own tattoo and scarification journeys to create space for other African women to do the same. Moving away from either the hyper sexualised or anthropological - think National Geographic tribal woman imagery - to discover the real and complex stories of these adorned women, because well, aren’t we all real and complex people? They are discovering as Jessica says ‘where tattooing and scarification sits in our varied African histories’.We talk about the tattoos that have marked significant moments in their lives. We talk about the difference between tattoos and scarification. We talk about the importance of their grandmothers in their spiritual practices and traditions. We talk about pain, pain not as something we seek after but rather as an almost unavoidable component of bringing something forth - which is why we also talk about childbirth! We of course talk a lot about the body, about understanding the body, about being connected to the body, about agency over one’s body and how this agency is in fact an act of resistance. Guests: The Temple of Her SkinTitle: Our EmbodimentMusic on playlist inspired from the African continent:Sauti Sol (Kenya)Zoe Modiga - Uthando (South Africa)J.B Mpiana - Ndombolo (Congo)Ria Boss (Ghana)Sena Dagadu (Ghana)Star Number One De Dakar- Waalo (Senegal)Mpho Sebina & Pianochella (South Africa)The Temple of Her Skin Links:WebsiteIGTrailerSupport their visual documentary project Dance Divas on the BBCLearn more about Airbnb's work with housinghttps://www.airbnb.org/
8. Felix Howard01:11:12I’ve been thinking a lot about how Black culture shapes mainstream culture so sometimes it can feel like we’re everywhere - but actually when it comes to positions of leadership and ownership - female bandleaders, women producers, label or studio owners, songwriters, women of colour who are composers or arrangers, who aren’t the pretty face in a band, or some kind of object of desire but behind the mixing desk - we really are few in number.It is changing - in its 2020 music diversity report, industry-funded body UK Music shared some key findings:The proportion of women in the industry is up from 45.3% in 2016 to 49.6% in 2020. Black Asian and other ethnic minorities in senior executive levels is up from 17.8% in 2018 to 19.9% in 2020. But that means only 1 in 5 people of colour are in senior exec positions. The number of older women in the industry between the ages of 45-64 drops from 38.7% in 2018 to 35% in 2020 we will still have a long way to go (although this is only UK data, I don’t know what it’s like in other parts of the world, especially the States) but things are slowly improving.Personally or fortunately for me I have, for the most part, been around men who love and respect women, who don’t condescend, who don’t have a problem being lead by a woman, who take instruction, who are safe people to be around and who also advocate for you - my guest today writer, composer, producer, publisher, A&R manager Felix Howard is one of those people.We talk about being in the music industry and for Felix, it’s vey much a family business, his siblings, his father and grandfather all having careers in the industry, as he calls it ‘a severe lack of imagination’. We talk about the role of an A&R manager, about changes in the music business, about different creative approaches when working with artists, artists like Amy Winehouse. We talk about the importance of diversity and representation across the board, about allyship and tokenism.We talk about music so much that instead of having one or 2 songs on his playlist as I normally do with my guests, I created a special playlist, I’ve called it Felix Holds up the Ladder.Guest: Felix HowardTitle: It’s all music and I love it allPlaylist: Felix Holds up the LadderSome unsigned/new acts Felix recommends:Genevieve Dawson - Carry it slowlyLady Blackbird The ClocksZach WitnessBioUK Music Diversity Report 2020Madonna - Open Your HeartMantronix - Got to have your loveLearn more about our Season 3 sponsors Airbnb and Project Lighthousehttps://www.airbnb.co.uk/against-discrimination
7. Dr. Mark Breeze01:01:28What do you think of when you think of shelter? Have you even thought about what it means or what it’s meant to do? Is it just something that provides immediate protection from the elements? And what about architecture? Is architecture about buildings that we find aesthetically pleasing (or not!) And is there a difference between architecture and shelter? These are questions that I’d never really considered until I spoke with my guest today, architect, academic and award-winning filmmaker Dr Mark Breeze. The UN High Commission for Refugees reported that at the end of 2020 82.4 million people worldwide were forcibly displaced. The UNHCR does break down this figure into people who are internally displaced, asylum seekers, refugees that come under their mandate but it’s a lot of people who aren’t in their own homes. Which gets us talking about the importance of shelter and the work Mark does in this area. We talk about the role of architecture and how much it impacts our daily lives. For example, did you know that architecture is responsible for 40% of the world’s CO2 emissions? Talking to Mark I realise that architecture isn’t really about buildings but about creating space that allows for the intangible things - care, safety, privacy, collaboration , our culturally specific needs - not just about bricks and mortar. And in it all we do talk about music!Guest: Dr Mark BreezeTitle: Shelter is the essence of architectureMusic on playlist: Candy Walls by TR/STBioLinksSpatial Realities design research collaborativeContact: firstname.lastname@example.org Shelter Without Shelter documentary: University of Cambridge Sustainable Shelter GroupBooks:Structures of Protection? Rethinking Refugee Shelter BookForms of the Cinematic: Architecture, Science, and the Arts BookLearn more about Airbnb's work with housinghttps://www.airbnb.org/
6. Art of Change01:07:54When is enough is enough? When is adapting no longer the appropriate response? When do people stop adapting because of their resilience and say we’ve had enough and we need to do something to change this? I’ve changed this week’s programming (we were due to talk about music with A&R manager Felix Howard) because Wednesday 4th August marks the one year anniversary of the devastating port explosion in Beirut that killed 200 people, made about 300,000 people homeless and created about $15 billion worth of damage. This explosion took place in the backdrop of political and economic problems, a fire in the famous forests that hold the cedars of Lebanon, the Lebanese government placing a tax on the phone app - What’s App, unemployment at almost 60% and the Lebanese revolution on 17th October 2019.So today we’re heading to Lebanon to talk about the situation in Beirut with founders of Art of Change Imane Assaf and Jason Camp an organisation that curates urban art to enrich communities, supporting and promoting local artists.Guest: Art of ChangeTitle: It’s the wake up call for a real revolutionArtists of playlist: Professor Z and The Chemical BrothersLinksArt of Change:WebsiteFacebookIGYoutubeAhla Fawda NGO:WebsiteIGBrady Black: IGMural of explosion victims:https://www.instagram.com/p/COc2hGzjRVO/https://www.instagram.com/p/COc5Js-j4Lp/https://www.instagram.com/p/COi0Sjmjy6o/Professor Z:IGTD StudiosLearn more about Airbnb's work with housinghttps://www.airbnb.org/
5. Dr Lemah Bonnick01:34:59This is the 3rd and final instalment on the series of discussions on race, class and education in the UK. It only felt right to interview the person who is the reason I am who I am, who has shaped the way I see the world - the person who literally brought me into the world, my mother, sociologist Dr Lemah Bonnick.BioLemah trained at the Institute of Education where she obtained her PhD in the Sociology of Education ‘Racial structuring of Educational Marginality’.She was a senior lecturer in sociology at St Mary’s University: Twickenham. She also served as a school governor. She has presented her work in the United States - at Temple University, Ohio State University and Brown - In the Service of Neglected People: Anna Julia Cooper, Ontology, and EducationShe is currently working on a book - The Will to Know: Redemptive Tradition in theStruggle for Education among People of African Descent in America and theEnglish-Speaking CaribbeanWe talk about her journey into Sociology working with Dr Basil Bernstein considered one of the architects of the Sociology of Education. We talk about class as a component of social, cultural and economic capital and its impact on education and what my mother describes as the ‘commodification of education’.We talk about Caribbean intellectuals and their contribution to shaping discussions around Britain’s colonial legacy in the UK and the Caribbean - C.L.R. James, Stuart Hall, educational psychologist Bernard Coard, Jessica Huntley, New Beacon books founder, John La Rose, Kamau Braithwaite. We talk James Baldwin, Toni Morrisson, W.E.B Dubois, Anna Julia Cooper. We talk about Windrush, about the complex relationships between minority groups. We talk about the controversial UK report on race by the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities and we talk about music.Guest: Dr Lemah BonnickTitle: We talk about the exception as if it’s the ruleArtists on playlist: Marvin Gaye, Schubert, Ella Fitzgerald and Lionel RichieLinks:Bernard Coard - How the West Indian Child is Made Educationally Sub-normal in the British School System: The Scandal of the Black Child in Schools in Britain Jessica HuntleyJohn La Rose, New Beacon BooksKamau BrathwaiteWindrush - https://www.bl.uk/windrushhttps://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-43782241Akala - Natives: Race & Class in the Ruins of EmpireLearn more about our Season 3 sponsors Airbnb and Project Lighthousehttps://www.airbnb.co.uk/against-discrimination