“New music bonding with old images in rich, provocative, and moving ways.” —The New York Times
Performed with electrifying virtuosity, ETHEL’s Documerica is a poignant and evocative meditation on America’s relationship to our land, our resources, and ourselves. This dynamic multimedia concert fuses a multi-screen video tapestry of vintage images from 1970’s America, with music by some of today’s most innovative and engaging composers.
Documerica is an evening-long program featuring projections designed by Deborah Johnson and drawn from Project Documerica, a national photographic archive commissioned by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in the 1970s. Directed by Steve Cosson, Documerica creates a compelling snapshot of a tumultuous era that powerfully connects to environmental and social issues in our own time.
Original works were created for Documerica by ETHEL members and by composers commissioned by the quartet to represent the diversity of this country: Mary Ellen Childs; Ulysses Owens, Jr.; Jerod Impichchaachaaha’ Tate; and James Kimo Williams. Hailing from different regions, backgrounds, and generations, these artists are influenced by very different musical practices, genres, and forms. Each contributes a distinctive voice to the program. The music of Documerica is in constant dialogue with images on multiple screens, taking us on a fascinating journey through time and history and a landscape of memory that is by turns urban, rural, pastoral, and gritty.
About the EPA’s Project Documerica. In 1971, this newly-established federal agency launched Project Documerica by commissioning outstanding photographers across the country to document the state of the environment and its impact on society. The result was an archive of tens of thousands of photographs amassed over nearly a decade. In spite of its historic and cultural significance, this massive artistic project was largely forgotten until digitalization made it accessible to the public. Forty years after its inception, the imagery of Project Documerica inspired ETHEL’s Documerica, a multimedia production that taps the archive’s storytelling potential and brings its visual and emotional impact into dialogue with the 21st century.
Click here for a National Archives video about the EPA’s Documerica Photography Project.