Isaac Bynum

Lift Every Voice & Sing

by Isaac Bynum (arrangement)

Final Project Analysis

My final project for GER 251 displays my experience as an African American man in 2022 learning about the European diaspora and about what happened with black Germans in the last few centuries. There are three sections to my piece, each illustrating a different topic that we discussed during our semester and how I compare and contrast my experiences with that of black Germans.

The first section of the piece focuses on Pan-Africanism and the concept of diaspora, summarized by McEachrane’s work. I wanted to connect this idea with that of the African American experience including the Black Lives Matter movement seen today. Musically, I began the piece with an African-style beat using multiple drums and percussion instruments that can be seen used in many African countries. Once the rhythm of the beat is felt, I then proceed to play the African American National Anthem, “Lift every voice and Sing” on top of the beat. This helped me reinforce the idea of a shared community through the diaspora by highlighting different experiences of the diaspora, while also joining them together. Hence the juxtaposition between both elements.

The second section of the piece highlights my interpretation of the transnational adoption of black Germans. For me as a black man, I often find it hard to balance between identifying with a community here and defining myself beyond the parameters that identity dictates. Musically, this was probably the most difficult segment that I created. However, I wanted the audience to understand how I feel growing up in majority white spaces, and also emphasize how a lot of black German adoptees have felt as well. Many times it can feel like I don’t necessarily belong in certain spaces, including schools, groups, etc. And being adopted must only amplify this experience. I wanted to represent this by having a segment where there’s instrumentation going on, however, there’s just one thing that just doesn’t sound quite right. I begin with a jazz piece, however further down the road, I begin to incorporate classical elements on top. It doesn’t necessarily sound bad, but you can tell its inclusion is forced and almost unnatural. I then switch to a classical background, and then add a rock guitar which again, just feels like it wasn’t part of the original plan. I wanted this to show just how it feels to be out of place.

 The last section of the piece is a testament to the reasons that Africans had for going to Europe. “An unknown, but likely large, number of men came as members of European merchant fleets or as stowaways and adventurers. More, including several dozen women, arrived as participants in human zoos, touring ethnographical exhibitions in which they ‘performed’ their native cultures… A handful of men arrived as language instructors, employed to teach future German colonists African languages and customs.”(Robbie Aitken Making Visible…) Within the instrumentation, the background is strings once more with orchestral instruments and percussion. I used this as my interpretation of what it would be like on a boat on an “adventure”, to represent the stowaways and adventurers that were previously mentioned. To represent the “ethnographical exhibitions”, I used the crowd sound in order to mimic the sound of an audience looking at the black people that have freshly arrived to a new land and were put in a human zoo. Lastly, in order to represent the language instructors that came, you can hear the faint call and response of the piano and the string melody, which can symbolize the back and forth of a conversation being had.

Over the course of the semester, I am really proud of what I have learned and can take away from this entire semester. I was really excited to understand more about the African diaspora and compare and contrast my experience with that of others, and I believe I successfully garnered more of a sense of community through the information and lessons that I have learned. I’m really proud of the conversations we had together and with the various artists/speakers that came. They were super interesting and the knowledge they shared is priceless. During the semester, to prepare for the thoughtful discussions that we had, I read and completed the assignments and readings that were given in hopes of providing a new perspective on different ideas. A lot of times, I really enjoyed sharing past examples of my exposure to different topics from over the course of my life. Being able to relate and even not relate with what we talked about, allowed us as students to engage more and have a passion for what we discussed. I think that a lot of what I learned and took away from this semester is reflected in my final project.

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