Pairing ETHEL's dynamic playing with the evocative imagery of the EPA's Project Documerica in a synthesis of score and projections that explores Americans' connection to their environment, ETHEL's Documerica is a landmark visual and musical snapshot of America in the tumultuous 1970s.
A multimedia meditation interweaving over 3,000 vintage photographs from an astonishing trove of images from the National Archive, ETHEL commissioned the composer Mary Ellen Childs, Grammy Award-winning jazz drummer Ulysses Owens, Jr., Chickasaw Nation's Jerod Impichchaachaaha' Tate and James Kimo Williams to create a work that seamlessly fuses contemporary composition with stunning projections by renowned artist Deborah Johnson of big sky vistas, ghost towns, mountains, and slices of urban environments. Coupled with ETHEL's own original works, the commissioned music explores a range of American styles and genres - blues, jazz, Native American traditional, bluegrass, and old-time string band - filtered through a distinctly 21st-century lens.
Throughout the program the music is in constant dialogue with the projections, in an arc that is by turns urban, rural, pastoral, and gritty. Extrapolated from the archive's images are stunning references to strip mining, political protest, car culture, pollution, unemployment, inflation, fashion trends, recreational pastimes, natural beauty, and urban decline, bringing an era fraught with social upheaval into dialogue with the present.
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