my name is david.
I am a pianist, singer, songwriter, and researcher, and I believe in the creative and transformative power of empathy and compassion. I use sound performance to think through histories and practices of race, gender, sexuality, and love.
I moved to Philadelphia in 2016 from College Park, Maryland. I’d been pursuing a graduate degree in classical music performance there. Over my years in the field, I’d become increasingly aware of the ways African and African-descended peoples were almost completely erased from Western classical music histories, repertoires, discographies, ensembles, learning spaces, and performance spaces. In frustration, I assembled a community of brilliant black artists to develop a collaborative project called a black pierrot. This performance weaved poetry, music, and movement into a defiant refusal of erasure, centering the creative work of African and African-American artists. a black pierrot further rejected what I experienced as the cold and empty formality of conventional modes of classical performance. And it argued through its collaborative poetic-musical-movement language for the complexity, beauty, and agency of black people in a world that defines humanity and non-humanity in racialized terms. You can consider excerpts from that work on the site’s “look” page.
a black pierrot began to destabilize the borders between “creative” and “scholarly” work that I’d internalized, borders that continue to organize many of the different kinds of labor performed in my university environments. Since moving to Philadelphia, I’ve pushed this border-crossing even further in my work. I began to develop what I first called “sound essays,” heavily musical sound pieces grounded in historical, anthropological, sociological, literary, and political science research. What becomes audible at the surface of the sound essay is not the more dominant modes of academic inquiry and expression––that is, critique through argumentation––but rather a more artistic language of juxtaposition and suggestion, free of propositions and of the imperative to convince. In trying to cultivate a practice of empathetic and compassionate music research, I’m using these sound pieces to tell stories in ways that I hope invite audiences who, like myself, can often find academic prose (and academic researchers themselves) alienating to encounter and engage. You can find recent examples of my work on this site’s “listen” page.
I believe that when people tell stories from our minoritized social positions, we exercise important forms of individual and collective agency. And I know that this telling can forge connections and community among others we may not have known or felt close to before. I know because I’ve experienced it. I feel that sound, and music in particular, can amplify these potentials for agency and relationship. So, I continue to think about how musical practices and other forms of sound performance, developed with and through empathy and compassion, can help make my relationships and my communities more loving, more equitable, and more ethical.