"Afterword Via Fantasia" was created in collaboration with acclaimed composer and musicologist George Lewis, a MacArthur Fellow since 2002, and includes additional music by composer Sean Griffin. The project is based on Lewis’ 2008 book "A Power Stronger Than Itself: The AACM and American Experimental Music," which chronicles the artistic and political communitarianism of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM)—the groundbreaking collective founded on the predominantly black South Side of Chicago more than 50 years ago. AACM composers and performers such as Lewis, the Art Ensemble of Chicago, Anthony Braxton, and co-founder Muhal Richard Abrams are internationally recognized for their musical innovations, in particular the experimental methodologies they developed around improvisation and notation. "Afterword Via Fantasia" was created in conjunction with George Lewis’ opera "Afterword (an Opera)," directed by Sean Griffin with Catherine Sullivan. The film and the opera premiered in 2015 alongside the exhibition The Freedom Principle at the MCA in Chicago.
Filmed outside the location of the AACM’s first meetings and on four sets for unrelated theater productions written by black playwrights and staged by black directors and casts, "Afterword Via Fantasia" imagines a set of possibilities for the staging of an opera about the AACM. The sets for "Porgy and Bess," "Two Trains Running," "Waiting for Godot" and "stop. reset." are used as readymade environments with themes and chronologies that both parallel and diverge from the evolution of the AACM. The settings provide speculative atmospheres for a discursive film about creative mobility, the AACM’s contribution to musical form, genre and political expression, and the contested histories of the avant-garde, especially in terms of class and race.
Shot in color high-definition video and discontinued black-and-white 16mm film, "Afterword Via Fantasia" is both historical and emphatically propositional. The cast includes current AACM members Douglas Ewart, Ann Ward, Coco Elysses and Khari B., as well as artist William Pope L. and actors, dancers and vocalists based in Chicago. The scenes combine choreographies created for the opera, performances of Lewis’ texts, imagined scenes from his libretto, musical and theatrical improvisations in response to the scenographies, and a music lesson by Ann Ward on composition and improvisation. The film is scored with recordings of Lewis’ music for the opera and original music by Sean Griffin. The combined innovations of the AACM make it possible for this film about the association’s development to operate in a spirit of artistic promiscuity and decentralized authorship. The “polyphony of quoted voices” that recounts the histories of the AACM in the book, opera and film continue to maneuver through disparate fields of forms and artistic practices, as do the suppressive social, cultural and political forces that necessitated the founding of the association half a century ago.
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