Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society
“For a wholly original take on big band’s past, present and future, look to Darcy James Argue,” so says Newsweek Magazine. The Vancouver-born, Brooklyn-based composer and bandleader has toured the world over with his 18-piece ensemble, Secret Society, garnering countless awards and nominations while reimagining what a 21st-century big band can sound like. Real Enemies is a 13-chapter exploration of America’s fascination with conspiracy theories; narratives behind the Red Scare, the Illuminati, Edward Snowden, and alien sightings are meticulously examined and interrogated through Argue’s dazzling score.
As befitting a journey into postwar paranoia, Real Enemies draws heavily on 12-tone techniques, a compositional system based on tone rows — a sequence of all 12 pitches in the chromatic scale — devised by Arnold Schoenberg in the aftermath of World War I and embraced by American composers during the conspiracy-rich postwar era. However, Argue’s wide-ranging score exhibits a mischievous disregard for how those techniques have been traditionally deployed. Other musical touchstones include the paranoia-inducing film scores of Michael Small (The Parallax View) and David Shire (All The President’s Men), the revolutionary songs of Nicaraguan singer-songwriter Luis Enrique Mejía Godoy, the psychedelic space-jazz of Sun Ra, the FM synth-fueled grooves of early 1980’s LA electro funk-influenced hip hop, and much more. Significant pieces of spoken text from figures like JFK, Frank Church, George H. W. Bush, and Dick Cheney are expertly woven throughout the robust and provocative score, with a concluding voice-over narration provided by actor James Urbaniak. Real Enemies is an intense musical and sensory experience that spins and explores a web of paranoia and distrust, and resonates long after its last note.
Avenging Angels // Portraits of Female Assassins
Loaded up the gun
Put the red dress on
Lured ’em into the woods
What would you have done?
Hannie Schaft was nineteen years old when the Nazis invaded the Netherlands. As she watched the French Revolution spiral inexorably towards terror, twenty-four year-old. Charlotte Corday believed one man to be responsible: the inflammatory Jacobin politician and publisher Jean-Paul Marat. Daughter of a freed slave, Marcia Aurelia Ceionia Demetrias became the favored mistress of one of the most notorious Roman emperors of all time, Commodus.
These are some of the women whose stories come to life in Avenging Angels, an evening-length set of songs co-created by singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Becca Stevens and composer/conductor Darcy James Argue, arranged by Argue for large jazz ensemble. With lyrics inspired by primary historical sources, the songs explore how women throughout history have exploited cultural assumptions about female weakness to position themselves to deal death. Avenging Angels explores the complex and varied motivations of each assassin, highlighting the fascinating true stories of women willing to kill — and to die — for their ideals.