Black Spirituals

ISSUE Project Room presents the New York debut of Oakland-based electro-acoustic unit Black Spirituals, in collaboration with new Ridgewood venue The Sump and Poppers Locarno bar. At the ecstatic intersection of rich harmonic tones and the heart-thumping, acoustic percussion, Black Spirituals transform performance sites with ritualistic communication, and manipulate temporal experience with their non-linear “Multi-Aesthetic Approach to Improvisation.”

A duo of Zachary James Watkins (electronics) and Marshall Trammell (percussion), the group borrows the alias Black Spirituals from a found cassette documenting a lecture given by Bernice Reagon on the roots music of American Black Slaves. These stories form a sonic resonance that speaks of rich relationships to one’s surroundings, memories, profound feelings, dreams, and the experiences that inspire human expression. Forging a new tradition in conversant, duo vernacular dynamics, Black Spirituals compose live on stage, exchanging ideas in an ever-evolving dialogue between their individual musical narratives. For this performance they perform in duo and solo formations, bringing their transformative work to New York “craving new circuits of communication, new music halls and host bodies to possess.”

Zachary James Watkins is a sound artist who has earned degrees in composition from The Cornish School and Mills College. He has received numerous grants and commissions and presented works in festivals across the United States, Mexico and Europe. He releases music on the labels Important Records, Cassauna, Touch, The Tapeworm, Confront, Land & Sea and Sige. Watkins has been awarded residencies at the Espy Foundation, Djerassi, and the Headlands Center for the Arts.

Raised in Hawaii, Marshall Trammell is a percussionist and interdisciplinary cultural producer devoted to social issues. His unique training includes apprenticeships with Improvising and Folkloric masters, 20+ years as a Creative Music professional in the Bay Area, and MFA studies at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Integrated Electronic Arts. Currently, Trammell sits on the Executive Committee of the Merced County Arts Council in California’s San Joaquin Valley, where he spearheads an independent music festival.