The Requiem Continues…Thanks to GPAC!

Please forgive our silence! 

John and I have been so busy since the Orchestral Debut of Unburied, Unmourned, Unmarked: Requiem for Rice.  If you were with us at Carnegie Music Hall on February 13, 2019 and you heard the first three movements of John Wineglass’ haunting composition, which Jeremy Reynolds, classical music critic for Pittsburgh Post-Gazette described as “[opening] with chaotic, sweeping scales in winds and strings and harsh brass chords” and praised the performance as a “small taste of what promises to be a grand dramatic homage to the darkest chapter of American history,” then you know that we MUST finish this work!


As Executive Producer (i. e. Fundraiser and Connector-in-Chief), I have been raising money so John can finish the original score and laying the groundwork for Phase Two of the project, producing Julie Dash’s film installations.  And, I am getting the documentary “Making ‘Requiem for Rice’” off the ground. It will take viewers on an emotional and musical journey of technology, enslavement, and family and will be directed by Pittsburgh’s own EMMY-Award Winning filmmaker, Emmai Alaquiva.  John has been writing, writing, writing and talking to orchestras around the country about programming Unburied, Unmourned, Unmarked: Requiem for Rice for 2020 and beyond!  

We got a huge endorsement this week, a LIFT Grant from The Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council! This $20,000 grant will enable John and I to travel to visit coastal South Carolina and Georgia to tour rice fields and coastal wetlands with scientists and slave cabins, record authentic sounds from the rice fields and sounds of the steam-powered equipment used to process rice in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in the Lowcountry’s commercial rice economy.  Immersing himself in the land is critical to John’s creative process.  John and I traveled to SC in October and November 2018 as he composed the first three movements of Unburied, Unmourned, Unmarked: Requiem for Rice.  But, it is very important to him to visit the rice fields in the summer to experience the heat, humidity, mosquitoes, snakes, alligators, and other critters! The summer is when our enslaved ancestors hoed rice in the fields.  August would have been the beginning of flooding, when enslaved laborers opened the floodgates to flood the rice fields. The stagnant freshwater nourished the rice, but also created a deadly environment for planters, overseers, and enslaved laborers, breeding mosquito and water-borne illnesses.  It was the deadliest time of the fieldwork cycle.

Stay tuned as we head South to do this important work.  Please wish us well and cross your fingers for a cool-front!

Thank you truly for your ongoing support!

Author: Dr. Edda L. Fields-Black

Dr. Edda L. Fields-Black is an Associate Professor at Carnegie Mellon University, Department of History. Her research specialties are pre-colonial and West African history and their connections to the African Diaspora. Fields-Black has written extensively about rice farmers in early modern West Africa, as well as Africans enslaved on Lowcountry South Carolina and Georgia rice plantations. Fields-Black is currently writing an epic history of the Gullah Geechee from their Western African origins to the publication of Lorenzo Dow Turner's study of the Gullah Geechee language