Requiem for America: Singing for the Invisible People
Brent Michael Davids (Mohican/Munsee-Lenape) is an award-winning, internationally celebrated composer, Codirector of the Lenape Center in Manhattan, and a music warrior for Native equity and parity.Artist Bio
Requiem explores the genocidal founding of America across the 50 states, plus the District of Columbia, in a series of three interlocking parts. Each part consists of 18 movements and opens with the same Movement no. 1, “The Doctrine of Discovery,” which authorized colonizing Europeans to subjugate Indigenous peoples. The 17 movements that follow focus on illuminating a specific genocide in each state, juxtaposing genocidal texts from America’s founding against historical letters from American Indians themselves. A narrator, in the persona of Earth, forms the connective tissue that contextualizes each movement, providing an integrated dramaturgical arc. Together, the three parts will cover genocides in all 50 states and DC. Once completed, David’s vision is to tour Requiem to all 51 venues. In addition to the Western singers and orchestra, each performance will feature Native American singers recruited from local tribal communities. Inviting local Indigenous people to collaborate is essential to the overall mission: to create cultural catharsis as we speak the truth of the genesis of our country’s “founding” for both speakers (the Indigenous participants) and receivers (the audience). Requiem sings against the imposed invisibility and models the solution in performance. Through truth-singing, we can collectively lament the nation’s blood-soaked nativity. “As we struggle against the deep legacy of racism in the United States, it’s high time for us to face and to mourn the genocide of Native Americans, on which this nation was founded. I’m proud to be associated with this project.” —John Luther Adams
Brent Michael Davids
Brent Michael Davids is a highly celebrated, multi-award-winning composer of concert music and film scores, Codirector of the Lenape Center in Manhattan, and America’s most seasoned Native American composer. Davids’s composer career spans nearly five decades, including awards and commissions from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers; the NEA; Meet the Composer; Santa Fe Opera; Houston Grand Opera; the School for Advanced Research, Santa Fe, NM; Kronos Quartet; Miró Quartet; the National Symphony Orchestra; Chanticleer; the Joffrey Ballet; and the Rockefeller, Bush, and McKnight Foundations. Davids is widely regarded as an Indigenous music warrior for projects involving American Indians. Many of Davids’s works employ traditional Native American instruments and instruments of his own design, including his signature quartz flutes. Davids inks playable manuscripts that are themselves visual works of musical art. As an educator, Davids cofounded the award-winning Native American Composers Apprenticeship Project student composer program in Arizona and the Composer Apprentice National Outreach Endeavor student composer program in Minnesota and Wisconsin, teaching Indigenous youth to compose their own written music. In 1983 and 1984, Davids was Composer-in-Residence at Graceland College, IA. Davids holds bachelors and masters degrees in music composition from Northern Illinois University and Arizona State University, trained at Redford’s Sundance Institute, and apprenticed with Oscar-winning composer Stephen Warbeck (Shakespeare in Love). Davids has garnered Distinguished Alumni Awards from both of the universities he attended.
Photo: Chris Line.