Special Event: Anthony Green, “Today’s Music Through Activism”

On November 20th I attended Anthony Green’s event where he demonstrated his take on the relation between contemporary music and political activism. I knew hardly anything about the event before attending, so I went into with with no expectations. The event was performance-oriented, as well as sound-oriented, as Green used a culmination of his voice, a piano, his body, percussion, balloons, a marker, fixed media audios, and the audience’s voices to create a soundscape which he then presented to viewers through both fluid and jagged movements of his body. Green sang, screamed, hummed, yelled, and made a variety of other sounds that I lack the vocabulary to properly explain. He combined these sounds with movements of his body, sometimes jumping or strumming his hands all over himself to create a beat, other times using his hands and arms to accentuate the feelings he was conveying through the sounds he made. This event was Green’s way of combining, what I would call, non-traditional and experimentational music with activism with the intention of making his audience aware of the Black experience in the United States.

While Green’s performance fits into nearly everything that’s we’ve learned this semester, I personally feel that it coincides with Josh Kun’s Audiotopia the best. For me, Green created a space, maybe not a world but most definitely a space, in which the non-traditional and unfamiliar sounds that he was making steadily started to become more familiar. The show opened with his quoting a line where a judge condemned a Black man to be lynched, or “hung like a goose”. Green then performed, what I interpreted to be, the events of that lynching through an unconventional vocal performance. The sounds Green created communicated an inability to breathe as well as a sense of terror and discomfort. He did this partly by vocalizing sounds while attempting to breath in through his mouth, and by grabbing at his throat, or thumping himself on his chest/back, and making choking sounds. There were also times where he would disrupt this aural illusion of struggling to breath by mimicking the sounds of people, occasionally a woman based on the high tone of the sounds, screaming in agony, anguish, or rage, at the events that were transpiring.

Green added to his audio space by performing a dance/stomp routine which communicated a sense of togetherness and camaraderie, despite him performing the number on his own. Green also encouraged the audience to sing with him, or hum with him, while he wrote the names of Black people who had died because of the color of their skin or because of their activism on balloons before setting them free to roam and move on stage. The audience, lead by Green, hummed church hymns that were typically sung in the Black community at funerals while he slowly went along and popped each balloon- mimicking the sound of a gunshot and how these people died. Overall, Green transformed the warm, dark, confined space in Emery into a audio space within which he communicated the fear, anger, and resistance that can be seen and felt in the Black community through his unfamiliar and inspirational utilization of non-traditional sounds and body movement.

Juliana Burch is a senior English major at UMF. This post was originally written for the UMF Literary Theory 2018 blog, which is used by students in ENG 455 Literary Theory to write about course reading material and sometimes to apply the ideas from course readings to events on campus. The Anthony Green performance was scheduled as part of the events organized by the New Commons Project at UMF.

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