M. Lamar alters consciousness in ‘Lordship and Bondage’

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    Over the past decade, New York-based composer, countertenor and multimedia artist M. Lamar has railed against race, class and gender inequality in critically lauded works “Surveillance Punishment and the Black Psyche,” “Speculum Orum,” “Negro Antichrist” and “Funeral Doom Spiritual.”

    In his new show, “Lordship and Bondage: The Birth of the Negro Superman,” which premieres Friday at Old First Concerts, the Alabama native, former San Francisco resident and twin brother of “Orange Is the New Black” star Laverne Cox is hoping to finally free himself from “the muck of the mundane of talking about racism and class identity.”

    “I see it as an evolution,” he says. “I’ve been singing about slavery, lynching and black death for over 10 years, so now I’m examining what it means to be at a place where you can acknowledge that these things exist and are a part of our history, while still existing on a higher plane. This piece is about a certain kind of evolved consciousness, a place of ‘black transcendence’ that I’m trying to embody.”

    “Lordship and Bondage,” a 70-minute, doom-metal, spiritual-and opera-tinged song cycle, features Lamar on piano and the contemporary ensemble Living Earth: guitarist Travis Andrews and percussionist Andy Meyerson.

    As they play amid projections and smoke, Lamar won’t so much sing as speak a libretto, with quotes from black jazz greats like John Coltrane, Sun Ra, Ornette Coleman and Cecil Taylor (who, according to Lamar, were able to exist in an elevated consciousness that freed them from their racial suffering), as well as 19th century German philosophers Friedrich Nietzsche and G. W. F. Hegel, who were proponents of a similar kind of mental freedom.

    “You’re not following a story as much as you’re in a space or a mood,” Lamar says. “So I hope that the work can be interactive in a way that maybe my other work hasn’t been, where I have had a particular thing to say. Now, maybe there’s more room for the audience to enter the piece and have their own flights of freedom.

    “Also, because I’m doing this on 4/20, in San Francisco with its long lineage of hippie [happenings] where people smoked drugs and engaged in music, I think it would be fabulous if people smoked a bunch of pot and came to the show and took the consciousnesses in their minds to other kinds of places.”

    IF YOU GO
    M. Lamar & The Living Earth
    Presented by Old First Concerts
    Where: Old First Church, 1751 Sacramento St,, S.F.
    When: 10 p.m. April 20
    Tickets: $5 to $23
    Contact: (415) 474-1608, www.oldfirstconcerts.org

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