This week’s open thread theme centered around the accomplishments of black composers. Today I am going to highlight Deidre Murray.
Diedre Murray (born November 28, 1951, Brooklyn, New York) is an American cellist and composer specializing in jazz,improvised music, opera, and contemporary classical music. She is also active as a producer, and curator. She lives in Queens, New York.
As a performer she has worked with the Henry Threadgill Sextett, Leroy Jenkins, Julius Hemphill, James Brown, Muhal Richard Abrams, Archie Shepp, Fred Hopkins, Jason Kao Hwang, and Marvin “Hannibal” Peterson, in addition to leading a number of her own ensembles.
In 1993 Murray received commissions to create: a score for the inaugural concert at the Danny Kaye/Sylvia Fine Playhouse entitled “Five Minute Tango,” performed by the Manhattan Brass Quintet; The Conversation for the Seattle-based New Performance Group at the Walker Art Center in Minnesota for the Music in Motion program; Flashes, a structured improvised collaboration with choreographer Blondell Cummings and musicians Jeanne Lee and Pauline Oliveros for The Firewall Festival 1993; and, music for Helen Thorington’s radio piece Dracula’s Wives for broadcast.
In 1994, Murray’s works included The Voice Within, an a cappella theater piece for ten voices with text by Marcus Gardley, at Aaron Davis Hall; a tour of Flashes to the Taklos Festival in Switzerland; and, a dramatized version of Unending Pain, with text by Laurie Carlos, at P.S. 122 in New York City. Her work as a composer was intermixed with an extensive concert schedule as a band leader and concert soloist.
In 1996 her projects included: You Don’t Miss the Water, a music-theater piece, in collaboration with noted poet Cornelius Eady, produced by the Music Theatre Group; and the premiere ofWomen In The Dunes, a dance piece created by Blondel Cummings for the Japan Society and Mu Lan-Pi. Her dance theatrescape commissioned by District Curators and performed inWashington, D.C. by The Ajax Moving Dance Company.
In 1998 Murray developed the highly acclaimed jazz opera Running Man, for which she wrote the original story, score, and book with collaborators Cornelius Eady and Diane Paulus. Murray won an Obie for her score and, with Eady, was a finalist for the 1999 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Murray also conceived Songbird: The Life and Times of Ella Fitzgerald, for which she wrote the original music. She received a grant from The Commissioning Project to write Eleven Elements of Joy for orchestra, which debuted in June 1999. In 2000 she wrote a new chamber and choral piece for The Commissioning Project.
In 2001 she wrote the music arrangements for the musical Eli’s Coming, for which she won her second Obie. In 2002 she composed the score for Brutal Imagination, a verse play by Cornelius Eady. Other works include Strings Attached, a dance piece by choreographer Risa Jaroslow; Best of Both Worlds created by Randy Weiner and Diane Paulus; and a collaboration with Sonoko Kawahara on Name of The Flower, a music-theater piece; The Iliad and The Odyssey with Kathryn Walker.
Murray collaborated with Diane Paulus on the musical The Best of Both Worlds. Recent projects include a collaboration with Carl Hancock Rux on The Blackamoor Angel, a full length opera, a collaboration with Pulitzer Prize winner Lynn Nottage on a musical for children’s musical entitled Sweet Billy and the Zooloos, and year-long residency at Harlem Stages with playwright Marcus Gardley.
Murray is married to Lawrence Murray, Vice President and Director of Youth Programs at The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University. Murray is currently managed by Abram’s Artists Agency.