It Must Be Now!
2020-22 MIT Sounding Series
Advancing social justice actions through music and media
Created and led by MIT Sounding series Co-Director Frederick Harris Jr., It Must Be Now! (IMBN!), brings together three leading musicians (Terri Lyne Carrington, Braxton Cook, and Sean Jones) to compose large-scale works for MIT musicians on the overall theme of racial justice. Collaborating with multimedia artists, MIT students and community members, and others beyond MIT, this two-year project seeks to address racial and social injustices and their confluences. IMBN! explores institutional racism; environmental, economic, and health injustices; police brutality; and abolitionism.
The genesis of the project began to take shape in March 2019, during trumpeter-composer-educator Sean Jones’ successful residency with the MIT Festival Jazz Ensemble. One year later, as a massive racial reckoning swept the country in response to the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and other Black Americans, Music Director and project lead Fred Harris felt that an artistic response was needed, and that a collaboration he had imagined with Jones could be expanded into a larger, multi-disciplinary effort that reflected the magnitude and urgency of the situation.
During the spring 2021 semester, Carrington, Cook, and Jones workshopped their compositions and participated in virtual masterclasses with MIT students. They also began working with a team of students headed by MIT Technical Instructor and renowned theater designer Joshua Higgason to create media content inspired by the compositions.
Over the course of the 2021-22 academic year, portions of the composition and its media components will be released online, leading up to a live performance in spring 2022 involving the MIT Festival Jazz Ensemble, MIT Wind Ensemble, MIT Vocal Jazz Ensemble, other vocalists and instrumentalists, narration, multimedia, and all three composers.
Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus, Max Roach, Nina Simone, Abbey Lincoln, and many other jazz artists have long addressed racial issues through their music and words. New generations of musicians (including Carrington, Cook, and Jones,) have continued on this path. They are more than poised to address the urgency of the present racial reckoning.
By bringing together members of MIT’s academic and non-academic communities with renowned musicians and multimedia arts, It Must Be Now! intends to build a coalition promoting heightened awareness and change.
“This is a project about process and transformation,” notes Harris. “I’m particularly excited for a variety of students across disciplines to engage with these phenomenal artists in shaping the final work. Our biggest objective is to inspire activism and enact change. We want to acknowledge historical perspectives of various injustices, but move toward this moment, imagining what could and should be reality now.”
It Must Be Now! Performance
Saturday, May 7, 2022 / 8:00pm (EST)
Kresge Auditorium, MIT Building W16
48 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA
Three compositions on themes of racial injustice and healing will premiere on Saturday, May 7, 2022, bringing together all performers of the It Must Be Now! (IMBN!) initiative. This unique immersive music and multimedia event features the work of three leading jazz artists of our time: Terri Lyne Carrington, Braxton Cook, and Sean Jones—and live VJ’ing by renowned visual artist and filmmaker Mickalene Thomas. The compositions explore themes such as the resilience of Black women, the concept of Pangea (an ancient supercontinent) as an Afrofuturism vehicle, and the value of healing as we continue to process the collective trauma of the pandemic and racial injustices.
Carrington, Cook, Jones, and Thomas will collaborate with the MIT Festival Jazz Ensemble, MIT Vocal Jazz Ensemble, MIT Wind Ensemble, other student musicians from MIT and New England Conservatory, and an array of artists including arranger/director/vocalist, MIT’s Laura Grill Jaye, arranger/orchestrator Edmar Colón, dancer Vinson Fraley, Jr., electronic music composer/percussionist/turntablist Val Jeanty, aka Val-Inc, music producer/pianist/turntablist Wendel Patrick, guitarist Andrew Renfroe, and lyricist/spoken word poet/vocalist Orlando Watson.
Formed during the summer of 2020 and led by Dr. Frederick Harris, Jr., IMBN! launched in the spring of 2021 and has since presented seven online events, including an IAP series engaging the MIT community in conversations around how these artists incorporate social and racial justice into their compositions.
Proceeds from the concert will be donated to Artists for Humanity (AFH), which is built on the philosophy that engagement in the creative process is a powerful force for social change, and that creative entrepreneurship is a productive and life-changing opportunity for young people. Bridging economic, racial and social divisions, AFH enriches urban communities by introducing young people’s creativity to the business community.
IAP 2022: It Must Be Now!— Advancing social justice actions through music and media
Three Thursday conversations with renowned jazz artists on composing with a social justice lens
January 13, 20, and 27, 2022 / 5:00-6:30pm
Join Terri Lyne Carrington, Braxton Cook, and Sean Jones, the composers of It Must Be Now! (IMBN!) as they each discuss their process for composing new music on themes of racial and social injustice.
IMBN! is a multi-year project culminating in a large-scale work for MIT musicians on May 7th, 2022. These conversations over IAP aim to provide an opportunity for the composers to share the behind-the-scenes of their creative process, and for the MIT/Greater Boston community to engage in open dialogue about how these themes take hold across the MIT campus and beyond.
Attend individual conversations or the full series as a whole: these events were remote and live-streamed on Zoom.
Between the Light and the Dark
Thursday, January 13 / 5:00-6:30pm
Braxton Cook’s composition dives into the juxtaposition between the light and the dark as he questions where we find ourselves as a society facing the collective trauma of the pandemic and police brutality while attempting to adjust our perspective to emphasize what we have instead of what we’ve lost. Cook will be joined by collaborator, spoken word poet and songwriter Orlando Watson, and the audience conversation will be facilitated by Tracie D. Jones, Assistant Dean of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at the MIT School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences.
The Resilience of Black Women
Thursday, January 20 / 5:00-6:30pm
Terri Lyne Carrington’s composition investigates the common struggles, inherent truths and sheer resilience of Black women, born into a world of injustice and tasked with navigating the overt and subliminal burdens placed on them while claiming the right to be free and whole. Carrington’s piece reflects on the legacy of creativity and invention of enslaved Africans and their descendants and aims to find a path forward to abolition, self-determination, and justice.
What if we were all connected?
Thursday, January 27 / 5:00-6:30pm
Sean Jones’ composition explores the concept of Pangea (an ancient supercontinent) as an Afrofuturism vehicle, probing the question of whether a more geographically linked world would still cause such deep rifts and misunderstandings of who we are as human beings? Jones will be joined by collaborator, music producer, and pianist Wendel Patrick, and the audience conversation will be facilitated by Michel DeGraff, Professor of Linguistics and Director of MIT-Haiti Initiative.
These conversations are sponsored by the MIT Center for Art, Science and Technology, the MIT Lewis Music Library, and MIT Music and Theater Arts.
Terri Lyne Carrington—An Artist Responding to Injustice
A discussion/masterclass with the NEA Jazz Master and three-time Grammy award-winning drummer, producer, educator, and activist
March 26, 2021 / 1:00-3:30pm
Join Terri Lyne Carrington, MIT CAST’s It Must Be Now! Visiting Artist, 2019 Doris Duke Artist Award recipient, and founder/artistic director of the Berklee College of Music Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice, for an interactive session exploring her multi-faceted career, activism, and her recent 2021 Grammy-nominated album Waiting Game, by her band Social Science. This wide-ranging session includes a drum set performance by Ms. Carrington, who has recorded and toured with such artists as Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Dianne Reeves, Esperanza Spalding, Yellowjackets, and countless other jazz luminaries.
Saxophone Masterclass with Braxton Cook
March 15, 2021 / 7:00pm
Emmy award-winning artist and alto saxophone virtuoso Braxton Cook will be working directly with saxophone players from the MIT Wind Ensemble and Festival Jazz Ensemble.
Jazz and Gender: Moving Toward an Equitable Future
March 4, 2021 / 5:00-6:30pm
A conversation with Terri Lyne Carrington, Anat Cohen, Sean Jones, and Luciana Souza
Moderated by Sarah Elizabeth Charles
How do biases in jazz affect women and nonbinary musician’s participation? How do we move toward an equitable future to ensure that the art form reaches its full potential? How do we address the disparity and improve conditions to create a nurturing environment in which musicians on all parts of the gender spectrum can be supported in their education and careers?
Exploring Sean Jones’ Musical Worlds
Trumpeter, Composer, Educator, Bandleader, and Activist: An interactive masterclass
February 23, 2021 / 5:30-7:00pm
MIT CAST’s It Must Be Now! Visiting Artist Sean Jones has worked with many of today’s greatest jazz artists including Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, and Wynton Marsalis. The renowned trumpeter and educator is the Richard and Elizabeth Case Chair of Jazz at John Hopkins University’s Peabody Institute, Artistic Director of Carnegie Hall’s NYO (National Youth Orchestra) Jazz, President of the Jazz Education Network, and a Mack Avenue Records artist.
This interactive masterclass will explore facets of Jones’ career including as a composer of A Suite for Flying Girls, his teaching philosophies, and the influence of Donald Byrd on his own playing. Prof. Jones will perform and also offer feedback to MIT musicians during this wide-ranging session.
As Director of Berklee College of Music’s Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice, Terri Lyne Carrington is a leader in equity issues and gender justice. Her band, Social Science, whose debut recording is nominated for a 2021 Grammy award, and her previous Mosaic Project and Money Jungle recordings, have all brought gender or racial injustices to the fore.
Braxton Cook, concerned with social justice issues throughout his career, composed Hymn (for Trayvon) for his 2017 debut album Somewhere In Between.
Dr. Frederick Harris, Jr. is the Director of Wind and Jazz Ensembles at MIT, where he serves as Music Director of the MIT Wind Ensemble, MIT Festival Jazz Ensemble, and Jazz Coordinator, overseeing jazz chamber music programs including three combos, MIT Vocal Jazz Ensemble, and the Emerson Jazz Scholars Program. Harris has been highly active with public school students and music educators throughout his career, leading seminars, guest conducting, and coordinating enrichment events at MIT and beyond. .
Biography: MIT Music and Theater Arts
Technical Instructor in Music and Theater Arts at MIT Joshua Higgason is a video, lighting, scenic, and interactive designer for theater, opera, concerts, and live performances.
Sean Jones, a musician whose artistic mindset is never far from the realities of racial injustice, has engaged in the topic through his leadership role as president of the Jazz Educators Network and through his compositions, such as A Suite for Flying Girls, inspired by the installation Flying Girls by Nigerian artist Peju Alatise.
It Must Be Now! (IMBN!) brings together three leading musicians (Terri Lyne Carrington, Braxton Cook, and Sean Jones) to compose large-scale works for MIT musicians on the overall theme of racial justice. Collaborating with multimedia artists, MIT students and community members, and others beyond MIT, this two-year project seeks to address racial and social injustices and their confluences. They will also begin working with a team of students headed by MIT Technical Instructor and renowned theater designer Joshua Higgason to create media content inspired by the compositions.
Additional MIT community involvement organized by CAST intern and Comparative Media Studies/Writing student Ethan Nevidomsky ‘22.