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Hearing music in color with composer Anthony R. Green

Photo of Anthony R. Green
Michel Marang
Portrait of composer, performer and social justice advocate Anthony R. Green.

Anthony R. Green is a composer, performer and social justice advocate. His work centers on equity and freedom, including a piece called “Piano Concerto: Solution." The composition will be performed at the Milwaukee Art Museum on March 10. It is part of Present Music's Ablaze performance, in partnership with Jewish Museum Milwaukee.

Green shares more ahead of that performance. He starts by explaining how he became interested in composing and how he hopes to change the classical music world.

"Being exposed to live music on a weekly basis, and being so curious just about how to make things, how to do things — I think this all boiled together to create a recipe of me being a musician, and eventually a composer," Green explains.

Green says his piece "Piano Concerto: Solutions" is a statement on how women should feel empowered and embolden to be who they are. He was inspired by the personal experiences of contemporary pianist Eunmi Ko, who will be performing the composition.

Elements of protest, physicality and historical testimonial are all included the show. Green emphasizes that the physical and musical elements of his composition are not new, and have been a part of classical history for years. And that these parts are left out because of the stuffy, elite box that classical music can be put it.

"It's this really interesting, juicy stuff that doesn't make it to the public. The public is so concerned in keeping this identity of classical music only to Mozart, Beethoven, and Bach and Tchaikovsky, only to these dead white men," he says.

To ensure his artistic work is centered on equality and freedom, Green says he stays true to the high standard that he places on himself.

Whether or not his compositions are political or related to social justice, Green believes that even his abstract music can impart a feeling of enthusiasm and encourage people to research more music by Black composers.

"I try my hardest to impart an emotion or a feeling within the listener. Hopefully that stirring within the listener is the social justice aspect, is the freedom and equality aspect, that I place in all of my compositions, whether or not they are political or related to social justice," he says.

Castle of Our Skins, an organization Green cofounded, was created to highlight and celebrate Black artistry, culture and figures past and present. He says the group came together out of a realization that his friends and him have never really played classical music by Black people.

Now, the group is in it's ninth season and not only features Black composers in the United States, but also Afro-Cuban, Afro-Caribbean, Afro-British, Afro-European and African composers, Green says.

"We just try our hardest to spread our support to whoever identifies as Black, but also to try to teach everyone irrespective of race and cultural background, that Black people have been part of this tradition for 500 years, and we're not going away anytime," he says.

Quite a lot of minority and oppressed groups who have been significantly contributing to the world of classical music feel left out, he says. "As soon as we start to bring together a more accurate picture of what this world is, that's when I think the equity work can truly begin and truly thrive," says Green.

You can check out an in-person, live performance of Anthony R. Green's piece, "Piano Concerto: Solution", at the Milwaukee Art Museum on March 10. His composition will be one of many at "Ablaze". Reservations are required to attend the event in-person or to access the livestream.

Mallory Cheng was a Lake Effect producer from 2021 to 2023.
Kobe Brown was WUWM's fifth Eric Von fellow.
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