Ten years ago, Jay-Z performed arrangements of his existing material with a full orchestra at a now-historic charity concert at Carnegie Hall. While unique pairings of traditionally distinct musical genres are nothing new, modern hip-hop is one of the best examples, with consistently great results.
This week, Athenian artists Camilla Sims (Convict Julie) and Mariah Parker (Linqua Franqa) will perform original compositions with members of the University of Georgia Chamber Ensemble during a free concert at 7:30 p.m. at Cine Lab. The show will be the second event of the Athens Hip Hop Harmonic, a multi-year collaboration between local hip-hop and R&B musicians and UGA’s Hodgson School of Music.
Parker, who collaborated with Hodgson School saxophone teacher Connie Frigo and ATHfactor-Liberty Entertainment COO Montu Miller to create Athens Hip Hop Harmonic, will narrate Frederic Rzewski’s “Coming Together” and “Stay on It.” by Julius Eastman backed by classical piano and synthesizer. UGA’s Brandon Quarles, co-director of the Contemporary Chamber Ensemble, spoke to the Banner-Herald about the creative process.
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“Mariah brought the track already composed and scored, so our job was to do that,” Quarles said. “It’s a driving, relentless bass line of sixteenth notes played for 20 minutes with no rest. The intensity of it really helps drive the words forward.”
Sims will debut two new songs co-created with Quarles specifically for the performance, which incorporates the use of four saxophones, a bassoon, a trumpet, two string players and Athens violinist Annie Leeth. The Chamber Ensemble students were challenged to learn the songs by ear rather than the musical cards they are used to.
For Sims, who told the Banner-Herald that she “failed music theory” but was able to learn how to compose orchestral and classical music, working with the UGA ensemble was a dream come true that helped her rethink her future live performances and collaborations. .
“Classical music is my favorite genre of music and for the first time I have the fullest sound that I imagine in my head when I’m producing,” Sims said. “Now that I’ve had this experience, it’s one I want to continue to have.”
For more information on the Athens Hip Hop Harmonic, visit willson.uga.edu/research/uga-arts-lab-cluster/athens-hip-hop-harmonic.