A little over a year ago the members of D-Composed, myself included, asked ourselves what would happen if we put together a modern chamber music experience. But this wouldn’t be anything that you are likely to witness during a typical night at the symphony. Instead of playing the familiar songs from Mozart and Bach, we were going to play the works of black composers, all led by a black ensemble. So how would we bring such a project to life? The answer: The creation of D-Composed.
Founded and curated by myself with Danielle Taylor as the artistic director of music, D-Composed was our answer to a world that often overlooks the contributions of black artists. We didn’t want to wait till Martin Luther King Jr. Day or Black History Month to finally dust off the many pages of compositions that had been dormant for years. Instead, we chose to celebrate these important works whenever and wherever we wanted.
We took the experience outside of the concert hall and instead performed in a cafe on the South Side, an art gallery in Pilsen, and a reclaimed bank.
However, for our most recent experience during Chicago Ideas Week, a festival providing a platform for a wide range of new ideas and ways of thinking, we wanted to do something we had never done before. We decided to combine chamber music and yoga for the creation of our newest experience, D-Compressed.
Bright and early on a Saturday morning, the MCA Commons makes for the perfect backdrop for our one-of-a-kind experience. Our string quartet tunes their instruments as the yogis begin their stretches.
Asia Jones of Trap Yoga leads our yogis through a rhythmic flow. As indicated by the name, this will not be your typical yoga experience. Instead, our audience is introduced to the many facets of blackness. The artistry of yoga converges with the works of traditional black composers as well as iconic songs within the pop-culture canon. One moment you’re doing a plank pose to Solange’s “Cranes in the Sky,” and in the next you’re in downward dog with a string rendition of Juvenile’s “Back that A** Up.”
In this space it’s OK to let out a “yaaass” when you hear your song—or you can have a mini twerk session on the mat. This is a complete judgment-free zone.
Black people are by no means a monolith, and we wanted to celebrate artistry that recognized that reality. As a result we took two seemingly disparate worlds and created our own world that was a complete celebration of blackness. It was like going to a chill cookout with the backdrop of a yoga class.
It was every bit a manifestation of the idea of FUBU, or For Us By Us. Shoutout to Solange and Daymond John for reigniting this sentiment.
What we created was an experience unlike any other which will serve as a reminder that black artistry is very much alive and well.
Solange Knowles Video
Special thanks to our musicians: Caitlin Edwards on violin, Kyle Dickson on violin, Danielle Taylor on viola, and Tahirah Whittington on cello. Thanks to Asia Jones of Trap Yoga for guiding our yogis, and a huge thanks to Danielle Taylor who arranged all of the featured music.