The cue said to play “Dramatically”!!!

Aside

“A Christmas Carol: A Live Radio Play” coming soon, live at Third Avenue Playworks in Sturgeon Bay, WI! December 11-31st, 2022, tix and info here: https://thirdavenueplayworks.org/

“Birds of North America” (Third Avenue Playworks) Original Soundtrack Release with donation links to Door County Environmental Organizations


click album art to play the soundtrack!


BIRDS OF NORTH AMERICA

BY ANNA OUYANG MOENCH, dir. Jacob Janssen

OCTOBER 2 – 30, 2022
at THIRD AVENUE PLAYWORKS (TAP) in Sturgeon Bay, WI
Donate to TAP! → here

John and his daughter Caitlyn are birders. As they scan the skies over their backyard in a suburban Maryland looking for elusive birds, years go by. Relationships begin and end. Children grow up and parents age. The climate and the world change in small and vast ways. BIRDS OF NORTH AMERICA takes a close look at the relationship of a father and daughter over the course of a decade as they struggle to understand the parts of one another that defy understanding.

Anna Ouyang Moench is an award-winning playwright and screenwriter. Her plays have been produced at the Geffen Playhouse, the Playwrights Realm, East West Players, InterAct Theater, and many other theaters across the country and around the world. Anna is a 2020 Steinberg Award winner and the recipient of a Gerbode Special Award in the Arts commission for a new play that will be produced at Magic Theater in 2022. She has been commissioned by NAATCO for a new play premiering in 2021.

CAST
John played by C. MICHAEL WRIGHT
Caitlyn played by DEKYI RONGE

ARTISTIC TEAM
Director: Jacob Janssen
Assistant Director: Doug Clemmons
Production Stage Manager: Kelsey Brennan York
Set Design: Maddy Yee
Costume Design: Kärin Kopischke
Lighting Design: Colin Gawronski
Sound Design: Brian Grimm


TAP partners with the amazing Open Door Bird Sanctuary!

The Open Door Bird Sanctuary raises avian awareness and inspires coexistence with the rich natural world of Door County, of Wisconsin and wherever you call home. We are a private non-profit 501(c) 3 organization and the only facility of its kind in the area. With 34 acres of pristine land with hiking trails, wildlife viewing and our birds of prey, we offer a unique combination of environmental and wildlife education as well as being a destination for both Door County residents and tourists alike. Our visitors are all ages offering just as much awe and inspiration to adults as to children. Highlights are:

  • Feature live raptors for educational observation for Door County school groups, service clubs, senior groups all year round both on site and off.
  • Engaging environmental education through interactive, live behavioral demonstrations
  • Shelter to injured raptors (birds of prey)

In addition to having live birds in the lobby before our first preview performance (see video above!!!), Third Avenue PlayWorks also hosted an Environmental Roundtable in their theater space with local climate and environmental organizations. I think this was an incredibly smart and creative way for TAP to be involved with community building for positive change. This event highlighted the subject matter of the play, while using the Arts as an impetus for public discussion as well as nature preservation networking and education. I’m excited to see how TAP continues to engage with their local Door County and Sturgeon Bay residents! We need the Arts to be an active agent of social change, to be a space where the community can come to learn, reflect, empathize, reconsider, experience multiple viewpoints, and be inspired to get involved. Theatre has a unique power to spark important conversation around intense topics that are often avoided at family gatherings or among friends. I highly encourage you to donate to these environmental organizations in Door County to help make a positive change during a time of pivotal climate crisis. I believe in Arts Activism and have been lucky to be a part of many productions which raise awareness about important causes & lived experiences. It doesn’t get much bigger than the decisions we face and the actions we must take concerning global warming.

Donate to these local Environmental Organizations here >>



Soundtrack Notes
I’ll preface everything by saying that I was deep in the throngs of my first Covid viral infection when I composed and recorded the entirety of this score. The day I recorded the initial cello transcriptions of bird calls (heard in the pre-show) was the first day I showed symptoms. The night I recorded the “magical leaf drop” cue on ‘hammered’ guzheng, I was in a completely delirious fever pitch, just hammering away! So it’s a minor miracle that any of this score was finished in time (recorded over a 10 day period) and that the recorded material even turned out to be usable!

In most productions I’ve been a part of, there has been a lot of underscore. This comes from the style of composer I am, the type of productions I’ve been asked to participate in, and what those directors wanted from me. For “Birds of North America”, there was a different type of underscore and a new type of challenge. The director Jacob Janssen really wanted to utilize music for transitions only, as we marked the passing of time in measurements of years between each scene. The focus within the scene however was just the two actors, their father-daughter relationship and the natural environment they were set in while birding.

There is a rich tradition around the world of creating music from birdsong and I was glad to join in the fun of that genre on this project! To start with, I collected recordings of the bird calls of each species mentioned in the play and then started transcribing those calls and songs onto cello. I slowed the tempo and pitched the calls way down in order to fit them into a listenable and recognizable song structure for our human ears. The initial round of these translations can be heard stretched out even further to glacial climbs in the meditative pre-show music (more on that below). Jacob felt that these initial transcriptions sounded too sad and slow when played on cello alone, that we needed more energy to be infused into each transition. The subject matter of Climate Crisis, Political Factioning, and Dysfunctional Relationship were already so heavy that any music seeming too slow or sombre would drag us down instead of lifting us up and into the next scene.

Jacob and the actors Dekyi Ronge & C. Michael Wright did such a fantastic job of finding humor and layered nuance in the production to balance out these weighty topics, that I needed to match and support that energy. It all created more enriching, complex storytelling. To achieve this energy I added in a plucked instrument, the 21 string guzheng 古筝 ancient Chinese zither. I partially chose this instrument because it has such a lively, powerfully bright tone that fills a room, but it also has the ability to bend pitch behind the bridge of each string. These pitch bending capabilities allowed for better birdsong emulation than most other plucked instruments. Between the bowed cello and the plucked guzheng zither, I felt that we had the energy balance we needed and two complementary instruments that could support the dynamic of the characters on stage.

Anna Ouyang Moench specifically advocates in her script for open casting of the daughter character Caitlyn as either white or multi-ethnic. In TAP’s production of Birds, Caitlyn was performed by the bright and engaging Dekyi Ronge, who’s heritage is Tibetan & German. Dekyi explains that, “[I]t’s a gift anytime a writer encourages casting that expands who we get to see on stage. It not only shows us that stories don’t have to look or feel one way, but it also offers employment to artists who may otherwise fall through the cracks of some of our more traditional casting practices.” Representation matters very much in culture and the arts. Though that discussion has become a recent focal point of casting, programming, and employment; I think we’re still in the opening phases of making those improvements and making them last. Through her casting notes on pg.1 of the script, Anna Ouyang Moench, who is multi-ethnic, opens a doorway to that discussion from the very beginning of the casting process for any production of this play. That being said; theaters, film companies, commercials, etc shouldn’t need such a prompt for that to be the standard practice in casting.

The pairing of the Western cello and the Eastern guzheng are in part a response to this multicultural casting call of the show, but in a subtle way. As the script isn’t constantly calling attention to race or hinging on it, the focus remains on the two characters’ relationship, politics and their connection to the global climate crisis. Because of this, I didn’t make the main focus of my composing about fusing the cultural traditions of each instrument with one another. They simply became musical tools focused on telling the story of this particular relationship via birdsongs.

The opening theme of the show is one place where I did specifically bring together east/west influences into a single piece on purpose. It has a folk /bluegrass/ mountain music style – harkening me back to my time spent at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival in Colorado. It is purposefully meant to invoke the feeling of “Americana”. But the actual pitch/interval theme, playing techniques, and pitch/rhythm is derived from the energetic erhu 二胡 Chinese fiddle birdsong style. These are some of my favorite pieces that I’ve learned on the erhu (which I studied in Hong Kong); they are thrilling and so fun to play! I utilized this catalogue of erhu technique and style to translate the story’s birdsongs onto the cello.

There are other influences from my studies over the years that appeared in the music without me intentionally trying. I think it speaks more to the fact that after all the years of playing these instruments, listening, studying the music, the history and learning many styles, certain elements have naturally become part of my musical language & vocabulary. A few moments include the drone and slow cello melody of the pre-show emulating the sound of a Indian Classical Alap introduction to a Raga performance (there are a number of sarangi style moments with the glides, but slowed waaayyyy down). That wasn’t my original vision or aim for the pre-show sound, it just sort of turned out that way. More Indian Classical music influence is found in the closing theme “1,000 Birds” part 1 and part 2. In these pieces, which use my Sarangicello, I’m playing an interpretation of the Eastern Towhee bird call at a lively tempo. When I listened back to the recording, it started to remind me of a Jor (or Jod), an exciting rhythmic pulsing section at the end of an Alap (still unaccompanied by tabla), in something sounding like Raga Hamsadhwani. It isn’t a Jor, but it gives me a similar feeling and it’s technique has quite the same exciting effect, with the “guzheng wing flaps” even reminding me of an Indian Swarmandal accompaniment harp. These are techniques that I learned from my guruji, sitar master pandit Sugato Nag (Kolkata, India).

An influence from listening to and learning about Japanese and Korean court music styles can be heard on the alternate cue for Scene 7, the “apocalyptic mix” as Jacob called it! The ensemble textures with the flute on top really remind me of those styles when I listen back, especially with the sound of the percussive punctuation mark at the end. I really love how traditional Japanese and Korean music utilize space and highlight a singular moment with their percussion elements. So there you have it, some unintended, but nonetheless present influences that crept their way into this score!

Each musical element you hear is some translation of birdsong, from the melodies to the little rhythmic motifs. It all sources from those particular bird sounds heard throughout each scene of the play – and I’ve put the main bird calls in the track titles for each cue!

For the environment texture in the background of each scene (not heard on this album), I recorded hours of nature sounds at Owen Conservation Park near my house in Madison, WI. Owen Park has beautiful trails that stray between woods and natural Wisconsin prairie hills. The wooded trails connect into the neighborhood where I lived while recording this score, creating these wonderful fingers of forested pathways between backyards. There will be a 2nd release of this album coming out next year (2023) with the sound design elements and bird calls from each scene included. But to start with, I wanted to release only the original music as it’s own listening experience. I’ll give more specific notes on the arc of the internal sound design elements for these scenes with the release of that future “Sound Design Edition” of the album… stay tuned!

When There Were Glaciers” Pre-Show music listening guide

Because all of these music cues are transition music, they are quite short! That was one of the biggest challenges of the show and a very very useful exercise for me, as I tend to stretch on when it comes to composing a piece, or improvising, or even teaching… or writing…long sentences! But one place I knew I could intentionally spread out and do something big was in the pre-show while people were taking their seats and settling in before the performance. From the moment I started working on this production, I knew I wanted to make a pre-show piece where you just sat with a wall of glacier. Before we moved into the times of man-made climate change in the play, we could start in the time of glaciers.

In this solid ambience, you hear glacial cello drones mixed with icey guzheng string noises that give off frozen mists as the glacier cracks, settles, and calves. The piece is chronological, a historical timeline. When there are big dramatic guzheng chord strikes, it signifies an important natural environmental event in history – a change in the course of our planet’s trajectory. We also get to hear all of the original cello transcriptions of birdsong (stretched out even sloowwweeeerrrrr) to guide us through each epoch. For each slowed down cello-bird song, I then doubled and tripled the melody, playing in real time with the slowest bows I could muster! Matching all of the slowed down glides and slides was a very fun challenge. When the birdsong-cellos first enter around 3 minutes in, it represents the origins of life, such as plant and animal species appearing on earth. Life goes on for a while, and then around 10:45 we hear the first build of plucked guzhengs which lasts for about 2 minutes, symbolizing evolution, the proliferation of different species and the beauty of Nature’s design. These plucked builds over the drone in combination with the cello melodies was something I had envisioned from the very beginning of the project, but I didn’t get to edit it all together until one afternoon before our first tech runthrough. It occured to me at some point (before I recorded it) that these textures would end up being very reminiscent of the harp and orchestra builds found in John Luther Adams’ monumental 2013 orchestral work “Become Ocean“. After this revelation, I chose not to run away from the idea, but instead to run faster towards it. How perfect was this similarity to a piece that is also about Climate Change! Now it could be my little homage to this great work and to what it represents.

Close to the 14 minute mark we have the entrance of Humankind, with a very questioning melody, in tension with the droning world around it. Our questions and self awareness stirring us in directions that would ultimately separate us out from the rest of the animal & plant kingdoms, though by our own fabrications. At 19 minutes we have another bubbling guzheng build, nature reminds us of it’s beauty and power in answer to our questions and teaches us. Shortly after (about 22:40) humankind rebuttals with the emergence of Industrialization, looking to its own intellect for answers instead. The ominous, dark horn and strings chord brings with it pollution and the start of our Climate Crisis. At 22:30 we hear our first electricity zings, further advancing our technological transformations. Our new melody that begins around 23 minutes is mechanical sounding, repeating the same note again and again like a factory line and ending in a rising siren sound. At 26:25 with the final siren rise, we have been warned, Modern war has arrived. After 27 minutes there is more agitation in the environment, we continue changing the earth for what we think we need, while ignoring what it needs. Take, take, take.

Around 28:30, the “mourning dove” melody appears. It’s beautiful and sad. We are seeing the wonderful benefits of modern medicine and technology in our societies, but we are starting to understand the cost of our developments, and what effect we are having on the earth. Some mourn, some ignore. 31:20 we are out of sync with the earth and what it needs, we are trying to sync up our priorities. Left vs Right vs Left vs Right vs Left vs Right. But eventually these sides come together to create a beautiful swell into a singular moment of understanding at 33:05, and finally we are working together.

With the entrance of the flutes at our moment of unity, we have a light shining hope on us. Maybe, just maybe we can use all of our technological advances to help solve the problem we have created. For the next few minutes there are two futures brewing, one of beautiful hope and one of ugly conflict.

It leads us into the beginning of the end of the piece. At 35 minutes we have once again the swelling chords of humankind in the strings and horns signifying our present time. They are not as ominous as the first industrial chords, there is more beauty and complexity here. Placed in a crucial moment, we must make the choice to finally act in reversing our damages and changing our ways to preserve our planet… or to send ourselves on a path to final extinction, taking everything else down with us. The final cadence at 37 minutes lingers on an unresolved note, what choice will we make?

At 38 minutes, the earth is left resonating, but the glaciers are gone.

John Luther Adams “Become Ocean” performed by the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra

Album Credits

Brian Grimm – Violoncello, Sarangicello, Guzheng
Greg Smith – Concert Flute, Alto Flute
Composed, Performed, Recorded, Mixed, & Mastered by Brian Grimm
2022 (c) & (p) GrimmusiK Records

album art by Nik Garvoille

Donate to TAP here to support more exciting theater in Door County:
thirdavenueplayworks.app.neoncrm.com/forms/general-giving

Brian used Jargar Superior GC and Superior Dolce AD strings on his cello for this album.
Sarangicello was tuned cgad’ for these compositions, using gut strings.


Opening Night for The Magnolia Ballet by Terry Guest! designer’s notes on score and sound

Cast Pictured Left to Right: Sheldon D. Brown, Terry Guest, Wardell Julius Clark

The Magnolia Ballet
Written by Terry Guest
Directed by Mikael Burke
Produced by About Face Theatre
5/20/22 – 6/11/22 @ The Den Theatre, Chicago IL
Tickets and Info: https://aboutfacetheatre.com/show/the-magnolia-ballet/

Warning sound design and music cue spoilers ahead!

This is a ghost story in the swamps of Georgia, USA. To set the scene of this world, playwright Terry Guest has included in his script the most rich environment descriptions that I’ve ever seen. The stage directions for the sounds of this world were so engaging, that I kept forgetting the audience wasn’t going to get to hear these wonderful words! Infact, it was my job to make the audience know and feel what Terry had written in the script through sound design. A tall order for this play. There are many animal sounds and swamp descriptions throughout, the environment is loud, dangerous and ever present. About half the time you’ll be hearing real swamp sounds and the other half of the time you’ll hear swamp sounds that I’ve created on musical instruments such as the cello and pipa lute. There are many different Pipa (Chinese lute) sounds embedded throughout the play which emulate bugs, insects, and frogs. There are also thematic shimmering cello textures which emulate the birds of the swamp, the rustling of animals through swamp waters, trees and vegetation, and recreate the incredibly active life in the swamp. Sometimes you’ll be hearing one or the other, and often times they are mixed together as scenes transition in and out of the real and present moment. Not only will you hear snakes, alligators, frogs, and cicadas in the environment, you’ll be hearing those animals inside the music and sound effect cues as well! For example, there is a terrifying scream in one scene which breaks the action that is actually a combination of a frog sound mixed with a snake sound. There is a door creak which is really an alligator hiss mixed with an acoustic cello creaking sound effect. This creaking cello comes back later to become the sounds of a ship hull and also a burning down house. There is a moment when a dream catches on fire to become a nightmare and the terrifying, distorted crackling you hear are really snakes, cicadas and alligator sounds with distortion pedal, pitch, and tape delay effects. In another scene there are rapid gun fire shots in a video game which are actually all cicada sounds. When Papa is introduced in the play, he is getting off of work at the factory, we hear a jet of steam coming from the factory machines as he opens the window, which is really a snake hiss. There are even a few moments in musical cues where I’ve transformed these animal sounds into musical instruments! In my re-creation of “Ooopps I did it again” by Britney Spears, the keyboard part is actually made from a frog sound that I turned into a musical instrument! Later, we find ourselves in an impromptu history lesson listening to a rendition of the confederate anthem “(wish I was in) Dixie”. As the song plays, we can hear a jangling banjo strumming along to the violin melody, but again, it’s not a banjo, it’s actually another frog instrument that I created! It turns out, you can make a lot sounds and instruments from just frog noises alone – a very fascinating and versatile animal. I tried to find many creative ways to incorporate the sounds of the swamp into each environment, sound effect and music cue.

One of the other special aspects of the Environment sound design for this play involves live mic effects. What’s a ghost story without a ghost, right? Well we have an absolutely phantasmic apparition character, expertly played by Sheldon D. Brown. This shape-shifting spirit is tied to the land, tied to the history of Georgia. He is the ancestors you can hear singing from across the swamp if you are just quiet enough and listen. Throughout the play, the apparition helps to create the world by singing and vocalizing which are accentuated by effects like reverb, octave pitching, distortion, echo delays and more. The apparition breathes the landscape into existence. Sometimes sounding like a snakes and frogs, sometimes like church, and other times sounding like blood and mud.

The Apparition oohs and ahhs throughout the world, singing mostly in a Bb minor pentatonic scale. This minor pentatonic is the the origin scale of African American Spirituals, the Blues, and Jazz. But it goes deeper, the pentatonic scale pops up in nearly every culture throughout the world, from ancient to modern. It is the universal scale of all our ancestors. This Apparition is singing to us from the beyond, where our ancestral spirits live together. The Key of Bb was picked because that is the home key of the Blues. This minor pentatonic scale is specifically chosen for its use by the Commodores in the bridge of their song “Zoom” (one of the ballet pieces in the beginning). This single scale fits over all of the different chords in that bridge; and it’s important to note this, because the shimmering cello and organ swamp chords which are heard throughout the play are sourced from Zoom’s bridge. That’s my favorite part of the song and it happens to be sung by the Commodores with just ooohs and ahhhs! It was just too perfect, I had to use it in this show! The minor pentatonic scale appears in this production not only in “Zoom” by the Commodores and sung by the Apparition throughout, but also in “Untitled” by D’angelo, in Tani’s song “My Love” from Mali, West Africa, and in “Papa’s Blues”. It is a musical thread which is sewn from the beginning to the very end of this play’s tapestry.


Re-Records & Re-Makes
This play called for many specific music cues, which involved me re-making, re-recording, and re-creating a lot of songs from scratch. In the first 2 scenes, we are introduced to two piano plus cello Ballet renditions of RnB classics from Boyz II Men & the Commodores. I chose “Water Runs Dry” and “Zoom” not only because they fit the musical requirement for the cue, but because of the lyric content too. The messages in those songs exactly match with the context of the situation that they accompany on stage – this was very important to me. And every time you hear the themes and variations of those songs (of which there are many) throughout the production, it is for a specific thematic reason which absolutely correlates the lyric content with the character moment. In scenes 3 and 4 the script calls for some late 90’s nostalgia with re-makes of “Ooops, I did it again” by Britney Spears and “Untitled (how does it feel)” by D’angelo. I had an absolute blast re-creating both of these from the ground up, making them feel as close to the original as possible. For Oopps, I created an instrumental version which comes out of the real song’s chorus, and with Untitled, I re-made the entire back track and thematically replaced the vocal part with a church organ. Both of these pieces show up in different ways throughout the rest of the music cues. For instance, in a scene with Papa and Ezekial V debating about the land they live on, there is a heavy blues jam which introduces Papa to the scene. It’s a very late 60’s Jimi Hendrix Band of Gypsies vibe, featuring the late, great Madsion legend Clyde Stubblefield (James Brown’s “Funky Drummer”) shuffling on the drums. The distorted riffs that I am playing on bass guitar are a theme and variations based on a guitar riff that happens halfway through D’angelo’s “Untitled”. It’s also no accident that the 6 feel of Papa’s heavy blues shuffle is directly correlated to the 6 feel slow jam of Untitled. The re-recorded drum part alone from Untitled comes back a few times, for the appropriate atmosphere. We hear the vocal harmony parts from the last chorus of Oops, reappear later on as the main horn and brass parts of a ‘Call of Duty’ style video game soundtrack that I made, because Oopps themes are specifically tied to Danny’s character.

There are also a number of re-records and re-makes of the Gone With The Wind soundtrack as well as some old Dixie tunes, which you’ll understand if you see the show…


Musicians on this Production
Tani Diakite (Mali / Madison, WI) – Vocals, Kamele N’goni
Djam Vivie (Ghana / Madison, Wi) – Jembe
Paddy Cassidy (Madison, WI) – Jembe
Clyde Stubblefield (Madison, WI) – Drum Set
Eric Harland (from Houston, TX) – Drum Set sounds
Brian Grimm (Madison, WI) – Cello & strings, Bass Guitar, Pipa lute, Piano, Organ, Music Production, Composition

I’m so thrilled that one of my favorite Madison based musicians, Tani Diakite was willing to be involved and contribute his beautiful songs to the production. Early on I asked Tani (from Mali) and his drummers Djam (from Ghana) & Paddy if we could record some videos of them performing West African songs and drum rhythms for myself and the Actors to learn from. I had such a blast hosting them at my house for a day to record instructional videos and also to record drumming, clapping and songs which we used in the play. Tani has a joyous voice that always makes me smile. I’ve been wanting to collaborate with him for years and I’m glad we finally had a chance to work on something together!! A huge thanks to Tani, Djam and Paddy for their performances and for teaching us their beautiful song and rhythms.

[I will be updating this post soon with some clips of those videos here]

Please check out Tani’s music, you won’t regret it!


the Elephant in the Room…

I am a straight white male from the north working on a play which celebrates black life and queer love, but also speaks the harmful, painful truths of living a black queer experience in the American south. Why did Mikael choose me to do sound design for this particular play? It’s a conversation we really haven’t had yet, but it was one of the first questions on my mind after I read the play. With so many specific calls for black music in this script, was it really appropriate for me to be the person handling those cues? If I make a wrong move, or pushed something too far in one direction or another, does it become tokenism, cultural appropriation, minstrelsy, or some musical equivalent of black-face? This has been in the back of my mind the entire time. I’m sure on paper alone, some people will feel this way regardless and would check “Yes” to a number of those boxes. I don’t have all the answers on such a massive issue such as this and am always open to criticism, but I can say that all of these musical cues were made from a place of love, empathy and absolute respect. One of the plays Mikael and I worked on together last year at our alma mater Butler University deals exactly with this issue. In “We are Proud to Present…” by Pulitzer Prize winner Jackie Sibblies Drury, we explored whether one can truly tell someone else’s story. Whether our never having lived such an experience automatically negates our ability to “put ourselves in someone else’s shoes” and empathize with that experience. No matter how hard I might try to imagine or how honest my intentions may have been, I have never lived a black queer experience in America. Where does the line get crossed. When is it twisted out of proportion, cultural appropriation, misunderstanding or missing the mark to the point of causing pain to the people who’ve actually lived that life?… Mikael trusted me enough to pick me for this position, so I had to trust him and know that he’d tell me if things were heading in the wrong direction or getting inappropriate.

But the question still remained, especially when Music is such an integral part of Black Culture and along side dance artforms, the single most inappropriately appropriated aspect of Black culture on a global scale – for centuries. This is one reason that I wanted to involve the fantastic African and African American guest musicians that I did (see above), I knew that I wouldn’t feel right if the music was exclusively made by me, a white person.

African American music has been an enormous part of my life, since I was a child. For most people in western culture, the first image of who a “Composer is” (and can be) is Mozart or Beethoven – but for me it was Duke Ellington. I had a children’s book about the life and music of Duke Ellington and his big band. It was filled with water color imagery of Sir Duke playing on stage with his band. These beautiful depictions absolutely captivated my young imagination. It was no coincidence that the first cassette tape I remember owning was a Duke Ellington’s Greatest Hits compilation. So for me, before I knew of Mozart or Beethoven or Bach – I knew Duke Ellington. Duke was my first image of who a Composer is, of what a Composer can be, and how a Composer writes, performs, & records music. He was a Composer, an American Composer, an African American Composer – one of the greatest to ever do it.

This early exposure as a child to the wondrous music of Duke Ellington opened my eyes to Black Beauty, to Black Excellence. But these sorts of cultural exposures shouldn’t be random or happenstance. Culture is learned, culture is taught, culture is passed down. White people must learn to see Black as Beautiful, it’s something that White people need to culturally teach one another to recognize and appreciate and support. Racism is taught, learned and passed down, but so is Love. White people: we’ve got to chose Love and to teach Love over Racism for America to heal. Black Excellence in the Arts shines so bright that you can see it with your eyes closed. See it. Celebrate it. Cherish it. Learn lessons from it. Be inspired by it. Through the words of Terry’s magnificent script, under the direction of Mikael’s nuanced storytelling, through the passionate layers of Wardell & Sheldon’s performances, you are witnessing Black Genius.


Please donate to the relief funds for the victims of the racially motivated murders in Buffalo last week: https://www.gofundme.com/c/act/buffalo-mass-shooting-fundraisers

Or find a way to donate in a helpful way within your local community ❤️


playwright Terry Guest featured as the character Z

Removing Ads from this site + more posts soon!

Dear Readers,

I have decided to remove all ads from this website again. I was hoping it would supply some extra income during the pandemic (since live performances had stopped…). But honestly, I hated the way it looked & I wanted to throw up everytime I saw an ad on this site. And I only made $3 over the course of the year, so fuck that. It was serving the advertisers more than it was serving me!

Anyway – I’ve got a lot more posts, updates, string reviews, videos, theater sound tracks and etc to catch you all up on. I’ll be rolling some of that out over the next few weeks and months! I haven’t been posting everything that’s been going on recently, mainly because there hasn’t been any time to sit down and craft a post or web page.

Since September, I’ve been composing, recording and performing 3 different theater scores for “We Are Proud to Present…”, “Shrapnel”, and “Before the 19th” which will be released soon as Original Soundtracks via GrimmusiK Records.

I’ve also recorded a lot of videos for a new “Setup Madness” video series that I’ll be putting up on the Brian Grimm’s Cello Zone youtube page.

Things are in the works, I’ll catch ya soon!


In the meantime, if you want to support, you can buy some of my recent albums and releases via Bandcamp

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Brian

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Brian

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