EarShot Detroit Symphony Orchestra – Composer Spotlight: Anthony Tidd

Anthony Tidd is an international touring bassist, composer, and bandleader. Born and raised in London to Trinidadian parents, Tidd now lives in Philadelphia, where he is a master lecturer at The University of the Arts and Jazz Artistic Advisor at Kimmel Center. A Grammy Award winner, Tidd has recorded and produced records for multiplatinum artists such as The Roots, Lady Gaga, The Black Eyed Peas, Fergie, Pink, and many others. He has composed scores for major film and television projects, most recently Jay Z’s Paramount/BET docuseries, Rest in Power – The Trayvon Martin Story.

Anthony Tidd’s piece Sa and Alatangana was selected for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra EarShot Readings, where it will be rehearsed and performed under the direction of conductor André Raphel. Public performances will take place on March 6 and March 9 at the Fisher Music Center. Click here for more information.

We spoke with Anthony about his piece and the readings.

Composer, bassist, and bandleader Anthony Tidd

American Composers Orchestra: What was your reaction to finding out your piece had been selected for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra EarShot New Music Readings?
Anthony Tidd: I was so excited and honored to have my piece considered and chosen to be read as a part of the Detroit residency. As a black composer, who is very interested in the orchestra and canon of orchestral music, one of the greatest challenges for me is to dedicate the time it takes to write for orchestra, to music which has little to no chance of ever being played or heard. This is one of the reasons why people within my community have such little experience, when it comes to composing for the orchestra and thus little to no investment in the future of the institution.
Residency programs like this do a lot to help in changing this reality, but obviously a lot more work needs to be done.
ACO: Your program note says that your piece is dedicated to your aunt Ruth Harper, who passed away last year after a long battle with cancer. Can you talk about the thematic material in your piece and any ways that it was inspired by your aunt or represents her life?
AT: Well, the piece, Sa and Alatangana is about life and as a part of this, also about death. When my aunt, who was also my godmother and my mother’s closest sister, passed away from a brain tumor, as well as being sad, I also started to think a lot conceptually about the different stages of life, growth, and even cancer itself. 
Actually, I also thought a lot about growth, from a biological point of view in the past, and also from the standpoint of looking at the fascinating universal laws which govern this. Inevitably such contemplation often leads one to the question of creation, God, and one’s own place within this vast universe. I have always imagined, and worked on the possibility of a correlation between the many universals outside of music, and music itself.
ACO: The name of your piece, Sa and Alatangana, comes from the two creator deities of the Kono people of Guinea. Why did you choose this name for your piece?
AT: As you mention, this name comes directly from a Guinean folkloric creation myth, which deals with  the dawn of creation, love, and eventually life and death, so it was a natural fit for what I was trying to express compositionally. As a part of the African diaspora, I am of course fascinated by such myths, and how they relate to some of the more widely disseminated myths of creation in the west, or religion.
I’m not really dealing with the religious aspect at all. What I am trying to deal with is intention, growth, symmetry, rhythm, patterns, “divine” proportions, etc.
ACO: What are you looking forward to about the workshops and readings? What do you hope to learn from the experience?
AT: It’s always great to be in a creative environment. I strive to keep myself emerged in situations where I can grow, learn, or assist others in this endeavor. But, as you know, this is not always so easy.
It’s also just going to be great to hear my music, and that of my colleagues, played by a great orchestra. I’ve learned so much in the past from such experiences (this is my third time having a piece played by an orchestra), so most of all I’m anxious to see if I actually learned anything the last two times! Hahaha!
I want to see how much closer I am with getting the limitations of “the page” to accurately represent what is in my head! Particularly in terms of trying to communicate the very specific rhythmic sense, which is arguably the most important part of the musical tradition that I am part of. We’ll see.

Anthony Tidd’s piece Sa and Alatangana will be performed as part of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra EarShot Readings, which are free and open to the public on March 6 and March 9 at the Fisher Music Center. Click here for more information.

Learn more about Anthony Tidd at www.pirerecordings.com
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