The 2021 Recipients of the Matt Marks Impact Fund

Alarm Will Sound has selected Damon Davis and the duo Joshua Edward and Zharia O’Neal as the most recent recipients of support from the Matt Marks Impact Fund (MMIF). Davis, Edward, and O’Neal will collaborate with AWS during the 2021-2022 season to develop and premiere new works. Their projects were selected by a committee consisting of AWS members and composer Tyshawn Sorey.

St. Louis-based multimedia artist, musician, and filmmaker Damon Davis envisions a “science fiction electronic fantasy opera” inspired by the biography of Sun Ra, one of the “most unusual musicians in the history of jazz” (from The National Endowment for the Arts). The work, Ligeia Mare, will tell the story of Cosmo, an awkward adolescent with a special gift of astral projection while dreaming. Cosmo finds power in the dreamworld that escapes him in reality. Davis says, “in this way, Ligeia Mare, is a story of how myths can be a doorway to self-discovery and reclaiming one’s identity, and how we can find power in our own self-discovery.” Alarm Will Sound plans to record the work and release it in an episodic podcast format.

Joshua Eward and Zharia O’Neal are currently students at the University of Southern California. Their proposed project, to be Black and believe in God is to know absence / this great on-the-behalfness of you, expands on an existing collaboration between the two of them–Edward a white composer and O’Neal an Afro-Carribean spoken-word artist–involving dialogues that “aim to examine the performativity of wokeness in artistic collaborations across difference.” They say, “Together, we’re seeking answers to questions like: Is all dialogue across difference necessarily performative? What role does performing wokeness play in the creation of trusting and collaborative artistic relationships? How does the highly racialized frame of Western art-music impact our ability to engage art that examines difference?” Edward and O’Neal imagine a process in which they will set up pairs of Alarm Will Sound musicians and Black members of the arts community, and coach those pairs through the same process that they engaged in as they created the first iteration of this project. This will generate music that will, along with Edward’s music, be recorded and become the material for a digital and/or real-world “gallery presentation.”

Alan Pierson, AWS Artistic Director, says, “These projects stretch and challenge not only our music-making, but our thinking about our place in the world. Joshua and Zharia have envisioned a musical space to explore issues of working across difference that feel vital and urgent. And Damon has dreamed up a stunning sonic universe to tell a timeless story. The impact that these projects can have speaks directly to Matt’s legacy, and to what we have hoped to do in his memory in establishing the Impact Fund. I couldn’t be more excited to be embarking on both of these collaborations.”

This is the third year Alarm Will Sound has awarded support through the Matt Marks Impact Fund. Past recipients include Alison Loggins-Hull and Toshi Reagon, A. Pyper, Rohan Chander, and Caroline Louise Miller.

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