Meet The Composer (MTC), in collaboration with arts activist and educator Dr. Rae Alexander-Minter, has commissioned two musical compositions for the NAACP Centennial Convention on July 12, 2009 at New York’s Hilton Hotel Ballroom. The first will be an anthem with music composed by Guthrie P. Ramsey Jr. to a text by Elizabeth Alexander, the poet who read her poem “Praise Song for the Day” at President Obama’s inauguration. The second is a multimedia remix of “Go Down Moses” by Paul D. Miller (a.k.a. DJ Spooky) comprising recorded voices and images from the civil rights movement as well as recorded tracks by the duo Black Violin.
Dr. Alexander-Minter, an MTC board member, envisioned the commission project as a chance to form a “commissioning club” to solicit works from an American composer and a poet. The decision to use poetry stems from Dr. Alexander-Minter’s desire to feature vocal music, although the two choices represent a wide aesthetic range. Ramsey, a musicologist based at the University of Pennsylvania who specializes in African-American music, used traditional melodies as the basis of his setting. In contrast, Miller uses a more experimental approach.—Daniel J. Kushner