Life + Arts

‘En Masse’ Q&A part II

Daniel Bernard Roumain Q&A Part II: “En Masse” and working with Marc Bamuthi Joseph.

1. What inspired “En Masse”?

It was an invitation, actually. The idea came from the brilliant Karen L. Farber. We met in New York during a conference. She approached me, and we started talking about a piece for a marching band — but actually, the idea was about defragmenting the marching band. The original idea was taking the individual players and scattering them all over the city. So you might go into an office building or into an elevator, and there’s a player in full uniform doing their thing. That evolved into something site-specific.

2. You are working with the previous Artist in Residence Marc Bamuthi Joseph. What has his role been in “En Masse”? What was it like to work with him?

Well, this is our third project together. Marc Bamuthi Joseph is just brilliant. He’s directing the piece. He has real ideas about placement and how it should unfold. I don’t want to say too much because it really is his work, but he’s great to work with. He brings a certainty and comfort to the project because it’s so big, so all-encompassing. It really needs someone to give it direction, overall perspective and scope and vision — and he does just that. It’s just great to work with him because he gets it just effortlessly, and he’s very creative. He’s very good at taking big ideas, organizing them and making them real and manageable. We’ve worked together a few times now, and he’s just on point. He’s the perfect person because he obviously knows the campus, he knows the park, he knows my music and he’s a very good director — in his own work and others.

3. What would you like to tell students who haven’t heard about “En Masse”? What should they know, and what can they expect from this performance?

You know, they don’t have to know much. Hopefully, the title is provocative. It’s a marching band, it’s a composer and it’s in the park. It’s four hours long, but you can come and go as you want. It’s uplifting, it’s even spiritual in some ways but it will be a good, important time. It’ll be fun but it’ll be important in that you get to see these musicians in a completely different way than you normally do, and you can get really up-close and personal with them. And it’s free; I think in some ways that’s the best part. There will be — I’m assuming — access to food and drink. I may very well bring my son if I lived here and certainly bring my family; it’s something for and about families. Marching bands really care about each other and look after one another. As the name of the park implies, it’s about discovery. It’s about seeing and feeling and hearing something completely new. I think the music is pretty good too.

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