The Grey Land


Joseph C Phillips Jr

Joseph C Phillips Jr, Isaac Butler, Sonya Sotomayor, Frederick Douglass, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Carolyn Bryant Donham

Performance forces:
sop, narrator — fl/picc, cl, alt sax, bsn, cor, tpt, tbn, 4electric/acoustic git, 2 electric pno, harp, 4 vln, 2vla, vc, electric bass — 6 treble voices



The Grey Land is a monoopera, a story of a Black mother trying to survive the reality in this land that doesn’t fully see her continued hope: that the great American experiment will one day become a belonging place where anyone can dream of “stillness and stars” free from fear and want; a place where the beautiful promise of happiness, liberty, and life may yet manifest true to finally include her family too. The Grey Land’s libretto explores those themes of humanity and identity through the lens of the intractable triumvirate of race, class, and power in American society. The opera integrates a variety of writings (from composer Joseph C Phillips Jr, Sonia Sotomayor, Frederick Douglass, the Mothers of the Movement, Isaac Butler, Paul Laurence Dunbar, and Carolyn Bryant Donham), as well as contemporary film and video footage, dance, and set and lighting designs, and dramatic elements. The Grey Land’s score and non-traditional narrative accesses black culture and music, embracing social and musical multitudes and the “dichotomies of high and low, inside and outside, tradition and innovation.” Working with choreographer Edisa Weeks, electronic musician Michael Hammond, filmmakers Malik Isasis, Ryan Booth, video artist Xuan Zhang, and director Ozzie Jones, The Grey Land ruminates and comments more specifically on the larger longstanding systemic societal, economic and cultural issues the various police shootings and protests since 2014 have brought to a wider public consciousness. The Grey Land album is on New Amsterdam Records.