The Future Is JoVia Armstrong

By John Murph   I  Aug. 23, 2022

“This music is about contemplation and meditation,” JoVia Armstrong stated of The Antidote Suite. (Photo: Michael Jackson)

JoVia Armstrong makes a speciality of creating sonic universes. That ingenuity goes past her items as a drummer, percussionist and composer as evidenced by her debut album, The Antidote Suite (Black Earth Music), an engrossing, Afrofuturist voyage centered on therapeutic.

Threads of techno, future soul, hip-hop and chamber jazz float all through the five-part journey as Armstrong sublimely reconciles digital ingenuity and left-wing jazz improvisation. She crafts the music together with her Eunoia Society, a bunch of kindred spirits who collectively carry out euphoric improvisations meant to seduce audiences into private introspection. With Armstrong enjoying a hybrid cajon drum equipment, the remaining members consist of electrical bassist Damon Warmack and violinist/viola participant Leslie DeShazor. The music broadens with visitors that embrace guitarist Jeff Parker, bassist Isaiah Sharkley, keyboardist Amr Fahmy, singer Yaw Agyeman, rapper Teh’Ray Hale and flutist Nicole Mitchell, who owns Black Earth Music.

“This music is about contemplation and meditation,” Armstrong defined. “Back within the ’60s, we had John Coltrane and Alice Coltrane doing what has been deemed as ‘non secular jazz.’ I’m going into that realm however utilizing electronics and cave expertise. In historic society, individuals would go into caves to worship, to do rituals, to carry their ceremonies. This is a spot that has a ton of reverb and reflections. There are these reflections, which is what we do after we meditate.”

With her expertise expertise, Armstrong transports audiences into immersive worlds the place the sonic designs journey naturally as an alternative of emitting from standard entrance audio system with left and proper channels.

In late May, she was making ready for the oral protection of her doctorate dissertation, “Black Space: Composing Meditative Music Through the Black Lens to Combat Unconscious Bias,” on the University of California Irvine. There, she was a doctoral diploma candidate within the Integrated Composition Improvisation and Technology program. When explaining this system by which many musicians use electronics to create their artwork, Armstrong stated that she’s extra manipulating laptop {hardware} than mastering software program applications. With her robust background in expansive jazz and R&B, it’s important for Armstrong to have kinetic stay instrumentation in her music. But the manipulations of laptop {hardware} allow the Eunoia Society to offer new customized colours and textures.

“While we’re enjoying our devices, we are going to hook them as much as completely different {hardware} gadgets to create new devices,” she stated earlier than explaining how DeShazor would possibly run her violin via a processor so the viewers hears a wholly completely different instrument. “In my apply, I’m taking a look at these processed sounds as separate entities. And we are able to combine the music in a sure method the place the viewers hears the dry sign of the violin as effectively.”

When describing her superb efficiency setting, Armstrong references Herbie Hancock’s live shows from Future 2 Future (Transparent), his 2001 drum-n-bass heavy album the place he used encompass sound audio expertise. For her live shows, Armstrong prefers a 16-speaker multichannel system and Unity gaming software program to create three-dimensional worlds.

“We have numerous sounds flying across the room,” she stated. “We invite the viewers to not simply sit of their seats and pay attention however grow to be members within the sonic world. They had been in a position to stroll across the venue and hearken to the sounds transfer round them. In the true world, that is how we hear sound.”

Armstrong grew up in Detroit, the place techno, Blackness and pioneering music coincide. The Mother City is residence to a swath pioneering Black techno, deep home and hip-hop artists reminiscent of Carl Craig, Derrick May, Moodymann, Jeff Mills, Theo Parrish and J Dilla. Detroit was additionally town the place Parliament-Funkadelic recorded most of its Afrofuturistic funk classics. One of Armstrong’s early mentors was drummer, percussionist Francisco Mora Catlett, who labored with Sun Ra, and has launched his personal Afrofuturistic works such because the Henry Dumas-inspired Rare Metal.

She continued growing her craft in Chicago, the place she linked up with the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians. Through drummer Vincent Davis, Armstrong met Mitchell at an ACCM occasion in 2000. During that point although, Armstrong give up music due to her encounter with rampant sexism. Mitchell started hiring Armstrong frequently, which helped revitalize her music profession. “We’ve been working collectively ever since,” Armstrong stated. “She’s a very shut good friend and a mentor.”

In Chicago, Armstrong taught children music software program like ProTools, Garage Band and Logic. “Now, I wish to present Black children easy methods to construct their very own computer systems, as a result of each time I’m at a NAMM present, I don’t see us,” she stated. “After years of going to NAMM reveals, it actually began to daybreak upon me, as Black individuals, we at all times appear to be accepted as performers. But in the case of manufacturing, how can we get into these areas? We know easy methods to use the instruments. We’ll be taught them inside and outside. But what may we do if we constructed these machines? What kind of creativity would we conjure up as technologists? DB

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