Nicole Mitchell's Xenogenesis Suite

Firehouse 12 Records is proud to announce the April 29th release of Chicago-based flutist/composer Nicole Mitchell's Xenogenesis Suite: A Tribute to Octavia Butler, the new studio recording of her extended composition of the same name.

The piece, realized by her longstanding group, Nicole Mitchell's Black Earth Ensemble, was commissioned by Chamber Music America's New Works Presentation program funded through the generosity of the Doris Duke Foundation. It received its world premiere in June 2007 at the 12th annual Vision Festival in New York and was performed again at the Chicago Cultural Center this past December.

The composition, and its combination of original music and lyrics, is inspired by the work of Afrofuturist writer, Octavia Butler (1947-2006), a Hugo, Locus and Nebula Award winner and the first science fiction author to receive the MacArthur Foundation “Genius" Grant.

"My compositional journey was stimulated by my emotional reaction to Butler's novel Dawn [the first book in Butler's Xenogenesis trilogy], rather than the specific events of the story," writes Ms. Mitchell in the liner notes. “Dawn intimately deals with the condition of fear and our ability to adapt in inhumane circumstances. The process of writing this music allowed me to face the feeling of fear head on -- to enter and explore it."

“Xenogenesis Suite: A Tribute to Octavia Butler represents a new direction for my work as a composer. I purposefully rebelled from my natural attraction to certain compositional devices in an effort to discover new methods of stimulating human emotion. I created the instrumental music as the surrounding alien environment, and utilized the gifted voice of Mankwe Ndosi to portray the human element. Ndosi represents a sole human--a woman--in the midst of a wondrous and perhaps frightening landscape."

"Brooding and sometimes harrowing," explained the Chicago Reader's Peter Margasak in an August 2007 feature article, “[Xenogenesis Suite] combines lyrics and nonverbal vocals with jagged, dissonant instrumental arrangements to convey the story of a black woman abducted by aliens after humanity nearly kills itself off in a nuclear war -- her captors need to interbreed with other species to remain genetically viable, and she's asked to recruit other humans to help."

Critics called have called the piece “dense, dramatic and daring" (Howard Mandel,, “haunting and extraordinarily moving" (Marc Medwin, and “reminiscent of some of the best work of Sun Ra, The Art Ensemble of Chicago or Horace Tapscott and the Pan Afrikan People's Arkestra" (Dr. Sais Kamalidiin, Time Out Chicago's Matthew Lurie adds, “If only every high- achieving author had a champion this imaginative."

"Chicago flutist Nicole Mitchell has developed into a leading figure among innovative jazz musicians," declared jazz columnist Howard Reich in the Chicago Tribune, shortly before the publication named her as its 2006 Chicagoan of the Year. “As soloist, she creates some of the most gorgeous jazz flute sounds ever. As composer, she has crafted compositions of considerable scope and ambition. And as bandleader, she has distinguished herself in a variety of contexts, whether playing duets with pianist Muhal Richard Abrams or collaborating with various members of Chicago's Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM)."

The release of Xenogenesis Suite: A Tribute to Octavia Butler, Ms. Mitchell's fifth recording with her continually evolving Black Earth Ensemble, follows a breakout year full of honors, commissions and critical attention. In 2007, she earned her third straight win in the Rising Star Flute category of DownBeat's annual Critics Poll, premiered two commissioned works, including “Many Paths to the Sea: A Tribute to Alice Coltrane" for the Chicago Cultural Center and the Jazz Institute of Chicago, and wrote music for award- winning poet, Haki R. Madhubuti.

She also became the first woman ever to record as a leader on Chicago's esteemed Delmark Records, and earned positive reviews both for her work as co-leader on the Indigo Trio's Live In Montreal (Greenleaf Music) and Frequency's self-titled debut (Thrill Jockey), and on recordings with such acclaimed ensembles as the Anthony Braxton 12+1tet and Rob Mazurek's Exploding Star Orchestra.

Nicole Mitchell's Black Earth Ensemble will celebrate the release of Xenogenesis Suite: A Tribute to Octavia Butler at Chicago's Columbia College on Thursday, June 19th with special guests, visual artist Krista Franklin, videographer Floyd Webb and choroegrapher Margaret Morris.

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