my name is david.
I am a pianist, singer, songwriter, vocal coach, and researcher, and I believe in the creative and transformative power of empathy and compassion. I use sound as terrain upon which to theorize race, gender, sexuality, sovereignty, and love.
In 2016, I was a frustrated graduate student. I was frustrated because of what I'd experienced as the almost complete erasure of Africans and African descendants from Western classical music histories, repertoires, discographies, ensembles, learning spaces, and performance spaces. In response, I developed a collaborative project with a small team of brilliant black artists. a black pierrot refused this erasure of people like me by centering the creative work of African and African-American artists. It weaved poetry, music, and movement into a performance that not only rejected what I experienced as the cold and empty formality of conventional modes of classical music performance, but further argued through this 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 this site's "look" page.
For me, a black pierrot destabilized borders between "creative" and "scholarly," between performance and research. My work since moving to Philadelphia continues and further develops this border-crossing. I've been developing what I call "sound essays." A sound essay is a heavily musical sound piece grounded in historical, anthropological, sociological, literary, and political science research. But what becomes audible at the surface of the sound essay is not the more dominant modes of academic inquiry and expression -- that is, proposing arguments organized into a specific format -- but rather a more artistic language of juxtaposition and suggestion. In trying to cultivate a practice of empathetic and compassionate music research, I'm telling stories in ways that I hope invite audiences who, like myself, can often find academic prose alienating to encounter and engage. You can find two recent examples of sound essay on this site's "listen" page.
I believe that telling stories from minoritized social positions can be a powerful exercise of individual and collective agencies, and I believe sound -- musical and otherwise -- can amplify this power. So, I continue to think about how musical practices, developed with and through empathy and compassion, can help make my relationships and my communities more loving, more equitable, and more ethical.