Music/Painting/Poetry: Outroducing Expectations

William F. Gross–composer
Larry D. Lean—visual artist
Lenard D. Moore –poet, vocalist

The Satire Project: a collaboration of art, music, and poetry (book + DVD). Mount Olive, North Carolina: University of Mount Olive, 2016. ISBN 978-0-692-68026-1. $15.00

Gross, Lean, and Moore based their satiric project on two primary beliefs: (1) combining painting, poetry, and music can produce “a work that would be more imaginative than any of the single disciplines could create alone” and (2) Aristotle was correct in proposing “the whole would be greater than the sum of its parts.” If one likes the sonic work of the avant garde chamber music ensemble Imani Winds or The Cosmic Quintet (Kidd Jordan, Douglas Ewart, Alvin Fielder, Chris Severin, and Luther Gray), the poetry of Bob Kaufman (check out his magnificent poem “The Ancient Rain”) and Safia Elhillo (check out “a suite for ol’ dirty” in The BreakBeat Poets), and paintings of Jean-Michel Basquiat, Paul Klee, Miles Davis, and Pavel Tchelitchew, it is probable that one will like The Satire Project. It does not disappoint in its outroducing of expectations.

Gross, Lean, and Moore assume that satire can direct “attention to shortcomings in our society.” In the 21st century, however, satire directs far greater attention to the yearnings of artists than to violations of or failures to live up to American social values . Ask Spike Lee who struggled to give us redemptive satire in “Bamboozled” and guilt-inducing satire in “Chi Raq.” The success of satire depends on some consensus regarding desirable values and behaviors. In some dim past there may have been such nominal consensus in our body politic, but in the present we can only agree that we do not agree. The success of The Satire Project isn’t located in moving us to make things better (whatever “better” might entail) but in moving us closer to aesthetic recognitions. And the most important recognition is that time does more to outroduce expectations than to introduce them.

Moving forth and back between Lean’s paintings and Moore’s ekphrastic poems in the book constitutes a special exercise in visual rhetoric, but the more rewarding aesthetic pleasure comes from negotiating the atonal offerings of Gross, the graffiti acrylic paintings of Lean, and vocal performances of Moore on the DVD. Inspired no doubt by Gross’s unpredictable soundings, Moore transforms his print texts into minutes of ear-jazz, and, in many instances, Moore “sounds” better off the page than he does on it because he liberates the words. The outroducing of expectations in The Satire Project as book and DVD is a fine investment of American time.

Jerry W. Ward, Jr. 

 April 23, 2016