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Chicago-based improviser Nicole Mitchell’s Xenogenesis Suite pays homage to the Afro-futurist science fiction of Octavia Butler. Mitchell and Butler invite listeners to question how bodies are shaped by and resistant to social and sexual hegemonies. Mitchell takes up Butler’s challenges to biological purity, cultural sanctimoniousness, and socially engineered heteronormativity by creating music that confronts normative concepts of how listeners and performers make sense of what they hear and feel. Her composition is a recombinant admixture of the transparently decipherable and the plural, the rhizomatic, the indeterminate. The complex and creatively enabling corporeality addressed in both text and music is materially sounded as black and maternal. For black women, motherhood is a strategic site of embodied political consciousness, of resistance, and of agency. Mitchell’s hybrid of composed and improvised music around Butler’s fiction enacts and intensifies this consciousness.

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