Georgia Anne Muldrow builds her own musical world
Muldrow, 37, grew up in a family of jazz musicians in Los Angeles. His father, Ronald Muldrow, was a guitarist who worked for decades with soul-jazz saxophonist Eddie Harris. His mother, Rickie Byars-Beckwith, sang with saxophonist Pharoah Sanders and pianist Roland Hanna.
Alice Coltrane, a family friend, gave Muldrow the spiritual name Jyoti, which can mean “light” or “heavenly flame”; Muldrow introduced herself as Jyoti for her most jazz-influenced albums, including “Mama, You Can Bet !,” which included daring remakes from last year. Compositions by Charles Mingus next to his own songs.
In the early 2000s, Muldrow came to New York to study jazz at the New School, majoring in vocals. But she gave up, she says, because, “I didn’t like the boxes they have for people. I feel like we are thinking outside the box just to survive emotionally as black people. We do this for our emotional upliftment. The search for one’s inner power and inner property and language – that’s what drives this music forward.
The teenager Muldrow immersed himself in electronic music, creating rhythms and imagining abstract sounds on drum machines, synthesizers and computers. “The attractiveness of technology and sound design and sound creation with computers has been my experience as a composer to be listened to, ”she said. “No matter how I look, whatever my gender, whatever my race, the computer listened to me.”
One of his mentors and collaborators was Don Preston, who had played the keyboard for Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention in the 1960s and 1970s and was Meredith Monk’s musical director. He encouraged her to work with experimental synthesis which she now sees as a “cornerstone” of her music. At “Fifth shield”, a manifesto from her 2015 album “A Thoughtiverse Unmarred,” she rapped, “I know I’m abstract – it’s not for everyone.”
For Muldrow, the parameters that control the tones of the synthesizer – attack, decay, sustain, and release – offer lessons beyond the recording studio. “I’ll make a metaphor out of everything,” she laughs. “The way we tackle things shapes our lives, the way we hold on to things shapes our lives, the way we let go of things shapes our lives. This is what makes me dig deeper every time I make music. “