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The Grey Land

by Numinous

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Don't 03:44
Agnus Bey 02:22
Injustice 01:57
Liberty Bell 06:02


Announcing The Grey Land, a mono-opera written by Joseph C. Phillips Jr. and recorded with his ensemble, Numinous.

Featuring soloists soprano Rebecca L Hargrove and narrator Kenneth Browning, the undefinable work, written in Phillips signature "mixed music" style, chronicles a single Black mother and her son for a dynamic exploration of race, class and power in 21st century America.

As Phillips explains, The Grey Land is "a story of a Black mother trying to survive the reality in this land that doesn’t fully see her continued hope: that the great American experiment will one day become a belonging place where anyone can dream of 'stillness and stars' free from fear and want; a place where the beautiful promise of happiness, liberty, and life may yet manifest true to finally include her family too."

With a libretto written by Phillips, The Grey Land weaves in additional text from Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor to author Isaac Butler to Abolitionist Frederick Douglas to Mothers of the Movement, an organization founded in 2013 by Black mothers after George Zimmerman was acquitted of the murder of Trayvon Martin and dedicated to fighting police and gun violence, The Grey Land is at once intimately personal and an incisive commentary for our time as Phillips looks at "humanity and identity through the lens of the intractable triumvirate of race, class, and power in American society" through a non-traditional score and narrative that "embraces social and musical multitudes and the dichotomies of high and low, inside and outside, tradition and innovation.”

Although Phillips' initial research for writing an opera that addresses endemic injustice in America began in 2011, it was 2014 while deep in production of his album Changing Same—an album recorded by Numinous and released on New Amsterdam in 2015—and preparing for the birth of his first child, that The Grey Land really crystalized.

"I was already deep into researching & thinking about what the opera was going to be when the events of Ferguson, Missouri, happened in that beautiful summer of nesting in upstate New York," he recalls of that time. "My conflicting emotions—joy of anticipation married to the anxiety about the world our future child would inhabit—moved me to want to more directly address the systemic issues long plaguing the U.S., particularly for Black and brown people."

Phillips himself coined "mixed music" to describe his compositions. "Mixed music is an organic fusing of various elements from many different influences forming compositions that are personal, different, and new," he explains.

That signature sound was recently featured in The New York Times piece "5 Minutes That Will Make You Love 21st-Century Composers" for his piece "19" from Changing Same. "Here, his ensemble, Numinous, nails his hairpin turns ... while offering pristine vocal and string blends," writes Seth Colter Walls.

The Grey Land was originally made possible by a grant from the American Composers Forum with funds provided by the Jerome Foundation and New Music USA.


released November 20, 2020


by Joseph C Phillips Jr

Soprano (Mother) – Rebecca L Hargrove

Narrator (Son) – Kenneth Browning


Katie Cox – Flute, Piccolo

Sammy Lesnick – Bb Clarinet, Eb Clarinet

Chris Bacas – Alto Saxophone

Sara Schoenbeck – Bassoon

Alicia Rau – Trumpet, Flügelhorn

Lis Rubard – Horn

JC Sanford – Trombone

Amanda Monaco – Electric and Acoustic Guitars

Mike Baggetta – Electric and Acoustic Guitars

Sebastian Noelle – Electric and Acoustic Guitars

Magdalena Abrego – Electric and Acoustic Guitars

Deanna Witkowski – Yamaha Electric Piano

Andrea Lodge – Rhodes Electric Piano

Kate Sloat – Harp

Aubrey Johnson – Voice

Tammy Scheffer – Voice, Bells

Sara Serpa – Voice

Bogna Kicińska – Voice, Bells

Emilie Weibel – Voice, Bells

Amy Cervini – Voice, Bells

Ana Milosavljevic – Violin, Viper/Electric Violin solo (“…Black Mamba”)

Josh Henderson – Violin

Frederika Krier – Violin

Libby Weitnauer – Violin

Hannah Levinson – Viola

Brian Lindgren – Viola

Matt Aronoff – Electric Bass

Mariel Roberts – Cello Solo (“Tender Sorrow”)

Joseph C Phillips Jr – Composer/Conductor/Bells/Co-Producer

Oded Lev-Ari – Bells/Co-Producer

Michael Hammond – Electronics/Drum Programming (“…Black Mamba”)

Joseph C Phillips Jr – Electronics/Audio Collage (“One Side Losing Slowly” & “The Sunken Place”)


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Numinous Brooklyn, New York

Numinous is a flexible and unique ensemble of up to 50 musicians that was founded in 2000 by composer Joseph C. Phillips Jr. to perform his music.

Part chamber orchestra, part contemporary alternative group, Numinous reflects Phillips’s musical philosophy of "mixed music," a fusion of artistic and cultural influences into one distinctive and singular vision.
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