After I listened to André and Emilie’s conversation with Alysia Lee, I felt called to action in my own work, and inspired to create a piece of art that focused on the complex identities of women young and old. Alysia is nationally recognized for her social justice work which happens to be through music. I was inspired as Alysia spoke about the Girl Effect, “its work is based on its belief that when given the opportunity, girls are able to lift their countries out of poverty” and emphasized the message of uplifting girls specifically. (Go learn more about the Girl Effect and Alysia’s choral modeling of it on the podcast!)
My friends in VOICES21C1 suggested the work be treble focused, and after listening to Alysia’s ideas around Girl Effect and the importance of affinity groups, I decided that this project would specifically seek out and elevate female and non binary co-creators. “Elevate” is a term that is pervasive in Alysia’s thinking and therefore my creative process and writing. We must elevate the voices of our youth, we must elevate communities out of poverty, we must elevate the voices of women.
Co-creation / Musical Aspects & Collaboration
The phrase I AM came to mind immediately as well as the idea to have co-creators speak, sing, interpret through still or moving images statements of who they are. I struggled to construct a way to include our thoughts of our previous and future selves, and after convening with one of my favorite thought partners (Emilie Amrein herself), the piece evolved to represent three declamatory statements: I WAS, I AM, I WILL BE.
I chose to create a simple creative prompt that I hoped allowed for the optimal amount of collaboration. I pictured the Circle of Fifths as not only a harmonic base but also as a way to represent the seasons of our lives changing, and therefore our self perceptions. I asked the musicians to lean into the ambiguity between the keys of F - C - G, which led to stunning moments of modal harmony in F Lydian and G Mixolydian. When I hear these modes, I’m reminded that our journeys are continuous rather than set in stone. This tonal landscape can symbolize the vast spectrum of “womanhood” (albeit in a small way) and also personhood.
Putting it Together
I proposed four ways in which folks could participate in this project and invited folks from different walks of life to contribute, and many chose more than one practice. I incorporated voices, images, and ideas of youth I work with, my family members, and encouraged others to do the same in their communities.
I “laid down” my statements first to provide a guide for others, and musicians and orators joined the I AM Soundtrap studio adding their statements. Each additional voice (including that of the violin) played off of what already existed. I expected to have to go in and make edits to “create” this piece, but each voice was so musically and personally thoughtful that the only edits I made were to the speakers who submitted outside of the studio. We supported each other through our statements, melodies, and created harmonies that so beautifully exemplify the power of women coming together. The creation was incredible and rang in my ears as a musical demonstration of Girl Effect.
I mentioned the call for and addition of visual media but time only allowed for the audio aspect, which is here for you now! Throughout this process I have readily recognized the importance of collaboration and of elevating the visions of others. I am grateful to my co-creators, and much less stressed now that I have reached further into my community to find a woman who will hopefully help realize the visual aspect of I AM.
Carey Shunskis, Voices 21C
1 I was a member of VOICES21C in 2016 and am grateful to still be part of its community. This organization welcomes all, excludes none, and uplifts silenced and marginalized communities through their creative and social work.
VOICES 21C Contributors to this project:
Eugenia Conte - Lauren Extrom - Elise Felker - Krystal Morin - Carey Shunskis - Olivia de Geofroy, violin
Allyson Mercer - NeVaeh - Sara Zanussi