The Liberation Music Collective will present its latest project, “UTOPIA: 21st Century Reflections on the Pursuit of Perfection,” to illustrate Indiana’s rich history with experimental utopian communities.
An innovative big band of Jacobs School of Music students and alumni, the collective collaborated with the Yael Ksander and the Brown County Writers, Readers and Poets Society to create a musical suite accompanied by written works and live narration.
The performance will include jazz compositions and stories of Indiana residents’ attempts at establishing utopian communities.
The theme of pursuing perfection came from learning about Indiana’s past experiments with utopian societies, co-creator of the group, Hannah Fidler, said. It inspired her and co-creator Matt Riggen to conceptualize the show and compose music for it.
“Every year, the Wells Scholars Program takes its freshmen to a retreat in New Harmony, Indiana, which was the site of two utopian experiments,” Fidler said. “Ever since then, I have wanted to engage with the idea of utopia in some kind of creative or artistic way.”
During their two months of composing music, working with writers and rehearsing with the band, Riggen said he wanted to make sure they were accurately portraying the experience of utopia.
“Most of Indiana’s history in relation to utopias is a dark and undiscovered country, even for the people who’ve lived here our whole lives,” Riggen said.
The UTOPIA project is sponsored by the Brown County Playhouse and guided by the Jacobs music school’s Office of Entrepreneurship and Career Development, a mentoring resource for The Liberation Music Collective and other musicians.
“This is a very exciting way for the students to start modeling what they think they want to do with their professional lives,” director of OECD Alain Barker said. “It gives them the opportunity to take charge of creative projects rather than just perform in ensembles that are preset for them.”
Though this project has a historical focus, its themes are timely in our political climate, Fidler said.
“These days, I think it’s very easy for people to fall into extreme dogmas or lose hope entirely,” she said. “I know the audience will leave the event with plenty to think about but, with any luck, they’ll leave with some renewed hope, too.“
Riggen said he hopes the audience will realize, although all utopias have failed, striving for a better world is not a futile act.
“Rather, that drive to create a more equitable state has to come from within, from everyone, instead of being imposed on us by a leader,” he said.