Since January 2020, vocalist Julian Otis and Elastic Arts executive director Adam Zanolini have programmed AfriClassical Futures, a series offering an antidote to the overwhelming whiteness and deadness of the classical canon. Each AfriClassical concert invites a Black artist working in or springboarding from the Western classical tradition for an intimate live performance and conversation, though the exact form is up to the artist. Cellist Olula (who formerly performed as Olivia Harris), who came aboard as a curator of the series in its second season, explained this approach to Adam Zanolini for Elastic’s newsletter: “Because this is a ‘Western classical music’ series, it’s very important that we don’t bring in those hierarchies, that we don’t prop up the structures that we’re trying to fight against. . . . I want to continue to see a more expansive approach to [the question], ‘What is classical music?’” Previous AfriClassical guests have included chamber collective D-Composed, Milwaukee-based violin-and-cello duo Sista Strings, pianist and polymath Charles Joseph Smith, prolific composer and string player Renée Baker, and singer and composer Ayanna Woods, who’s behind some of the most engrossing choral music being written in Chicago right now. (Musical talent may be a family trait; her sister is Jamila Woods.) Next up in the series is the Honourable Elizabeth A. Baker, a Florida-born multi-instrumentalist and electronics artist whose cerebral, slow-developing music constantly reinvents itself. When she premiered her work “Strange Loops” here in October, the performance managed to amuse several AACM musicians—no small feat—by employing overlapping scales in different keys and directing musicians to bounce Ping-Pong balls inside a piano and use the bodies of other instruments as resonators, either by singing or blowing their horns into them. Ever out of the box, Baker will use this solo set to spotlight a harmonics guitar (specially designed by experimental luthier John C.L. Jansen) and the 16-channel speaker system at Elastic Arts, which the Chicago Laboratory for Electroacoustic Theatre installed just before the pandemic shutdown.
Elizabeth A. Baker, Sat 5/21, 8 PM, Elastic Arts, 3429 W. Diversey #208, $15, all ages