One cool thing about getting older is the opportunity to finally understand some things.
This spring I visited Greece. In the museums, I saw scores of amphoras—vessels for oil, wine, water—every one a piece of functional design, each made beautiful. Because why shouldn't the container be beautiful?
So I also make containers. A song or a composition is a vessel for authentic emotion and human experience. Sometimes listening to Spotify is like being in the Acropolis Museum. I stumble on a container I had forgotten I held before, and I'm reminded of the nectar of feeling, of imagination, and revelation that it contained.
Growing up, I never knew why this song by the Stylistics wrecked me so much. It was one of many R & B ballads on the radio in 1973, produced by Thom Bell. It is only now, as I strive to design my latest container—a chamber opera—that I can appreciate this melding of black lived experience with aspects of Western culture that no one told me also belonged to us: string orchestra, brilliant arranging, and slow waltzes! All of them are channeled through the extraordinary countertenor voice of Russell Thompkins Jr.
Today, I can see The Philly Sound as an expression of black mastery. Our unique thing. Black genius. An amphora worthy of a museum. I'm grateful to have it to draw on as I craft a new vessel of my own.