Evan Flory Barnes has come full circle. The composer, jazz musician and bass player for Industrial Revelation grew up in Columbia City, then moved to Mount Baker as a kid, went to college at UW, and finally, moved back to Columbia City a couple of years ago. The first house he ever lived in is a 10-minute walk from where he lives now.
“It was actually really powerful the last time I walked by it,” he says. “It was a sort of forceful, heavy feeling. Kind of a recognition of the very challenging things that happened in that house.”
Being back in his childhood neighborhood, he says, is a trip.
“There's a way in which you develop a self, that’s informed by, but independent of, your roots. And now there’s sort of an integration of all of that. I feel more at home here than I have in a while.”
This Thursday, after almost 20 years of collaborating nonstop on other people’s projects, Flory-Barnes is integrating the deeply personal stories of his past into a nine-movement orchestral piece that is completely his own—he calls it an “essential reclamation of the self-party.” The Music of an Acknowledgement of a Celebration: Inheritance, Authenticity and Healing (which first debuted as a choreographed piece at Town Hall in 2009) will detail everything from a rough breakup, the death of his father and recent death of uncle Curtis Barnes, to mourning the unjust deaths of young Black men like Jordan Edwards being gunned down by cops.
The movements all have names like “A Boy's Dream,” “A Man's Majesty,” “End of Old Days,” and “Requiem for a Love Misunderstood.” And Flory-Barnes has a special litmus test for every song he writes: “If they don’t yield both goosebumps and tears, then I don't write them down.” For a composer who tends to wear his heart on his sleeve, it makes sense that Flory Barnes would need an entire orchestra to fully express himself.
“It's kind of a score, to one’s own inner processes. If a person's internal myth could have a soundtrack, this is it.”
This soundtrack, which promises to be a symphonic bricolage of the best kind, draws upon classical influences like Ravel, Debussy and Stravinsky, fused with Flory-Barnes’s love of A Tribe Called Quest, Dilla, and De La Soul. There’s the bee-boom-baps of jazz dwelling alongside melodic, lush orchestral sweeps, along with, as Flory-Barnes describes it, “a little of Curtis Mayfield meets a little bit of Bjork.”
The orchestra includes his bandmates from Industrial Revelation: D’Vonne Lewis, Josh Rawlings and Ahamefule J. Oluo (who performed his own epic musical memoir, Now I’m Fine, last year at the Moore), improv clarinetist James Falzone, and violin virtuoso Quinton Morris, among others.
“I love being part of Industrial Revelation and that's a band of brothers that's been going on for 12 years, but I've been sort of taking a backseat with my own creativity,” Flory-Barnes says.
It’s a trap he calls the “Bohemian triangle”—what happens when an artist “takes a back seat to this thing inside your heart that you know has to express itself. After a while if you ignore or diminish the inspiration that allows you to create, it becomes this sort of monster that turns in on itself and can show up as fear, or resignation—the exact opposite of creativity and expression. It’s a strange thing to say, but if you won't do it for yourself, no one else will.”