Introducing Composer Corey Mwamba

Corey Mwamba at The VoiceBox, Derby, 5 August 2016. Photo: Alex Bonney

Meet IN·FLO·RES·CENCE Composer: Musician, Promoter, Arts Advocate, and Researcher Corey Mwamba

For IN·FLO·RES·CENCE, Corey Mwamba is 1 of 10 composers from around the globe commissioned by Reece Ewing to create a composition for solo piano around 1 minute in length responding to the changes to daily life during the global coronavirus outbreak. As part of the platform hosted by The Showroom, these 10 individual pieces have all be interpreted and performed by the project’s first Artist-in-Residence, Pianist Elio Villafranca, throughout the duration of the project.

Corey’s composition fellowred is a based on a real, archaic word from an old Scandinavian root meaning ‘partner, business associate, companion, comrade, spouse, collaborator, ally’ – it means intimate companionship. Mwamba is fascinated by language as a foundation to explore and interrogate. With regards to ‘fellowred’ Mwamba views it as a framework of how to communicate and connect with people.

Although Corey uses standard Western notation for this score, there are certain elements removed, such as a time signature – indeed, time in general. The idea of the composition is about a deep intimacy of communication and companionship, and hence was written to take as much time as needed. In the score itself it states ‘take as much time as you need’.

When I think about the music-making process of composing, Mwamba reflects
I think about it just as music that has been inscribed. You know normally for me I inscribe it to memory, I don’t write anything down. But then if I do write things down and transcribe to paper then I have to consider what form that’s going to take – sometimes it’s just letters, sometimes it’s dots, or other lines and marks, and sometimes it’s standard western notation. I thought for this one I’ll use standard western notation but I will remove some of the constraints… Things have been removed for very particular reasons – it’s very open, and allowing that space for communication to begin. – Corey Mwamba

fellowred Score © Corey Mwamba, 2020.

In the below intimate conversation with Kevin Le Gendre (Broadcaster and Writer of Don’t Stop the Carnival: Black British Music, 2019) Corey Mwamba discusses his interpretation of inflorescence, respect for Cecil Taylor’s experimental ethos, special commission ‘followred’, life during lockdown in Derby, staying connected whilst distanced, and the power of breath.

And towards the end there’s a repetition that can go as you want – it’s just an enduring, supporting, and deepening of a relationship. And that is what that piece means. But to do that I need to think about the word first – to allow the word to almost bring forth what that music was. In terms of that connection of bringing forth and flowering, it comes from me looking very intensely and exploring and interrogating the word that I used for the title. – Corey Mwamba

Born and based in Derby, Dr. Corey Mwamba’s commitment to jazz and improvised music in Britain and Ireland drives all aspects of his work, whether through making, presenting, promoting, or researching music. Mwamba predominantly plays vibraphone; he also plays dulcimer and uses audio processing software. He is recognised as a highly creative improviser and composer working across a wide range of jazz and contemporary music with a distinctive approach and tone: a potent blend of pure sound, highly melodic phrases and ethereal textures; barely whispered chords and ear-piercing robotic screams. His main group is the critically acclaimed yana with Dave Kane (bass) and Joshua Blackmore (drums) which exemplifies a core ideal of creating an ‘open, living music’; listening and responding spontaneously as a unit to make music that has love, language and a groove.

Corey Mwamba retired from public performance in March 2019 and is the current presenter of Freeness, a weekly show on BBC Radio 3 that plays adventurous jazz and improvised music from across the globe. Mwamba was granted an AHRC studentship for a Master of Research degree in Music at Keele University in 2014, and was recently awarded a doctorate in Jazz Research at Birmingham City University. He is also an active advocate of the arts and adventurous programmer of new music in Derby.

Corey Mwamba. Photo: Agata Urbaniak. Courtesy of the artist.



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