I’m honored to have been part of the King Center’s events celebrating the 35th Anniversary of the King Holiday this January 2021. The observance commemorated what would have been Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s 92nd birthday! There was a host of virtual programs and events in celebration and I performed for the Beloved Community Awards which streamed live on social media, Youtube, and thekingcenter.org websites on January 16, 2021.
Moving and Powerful
The Beloved Community Awards was a moving and POWERFUL virtual event honoring those which are helping lead the way for this type of community, which King Center CEO, Dr. Bernice A King spoke about as follows:
As I consider the inhumanity, injustice and indifference currently persisting in our world, particularly in the United States of America, I cannot imagine a more relevant and powerful way to commemorate my father’s birthday than with focus on the urgency of creating the Beloved Community. Now, more than ever, we must turn our attention to fostering reconciliation, which includes truth and repentance, and also turn our attention to achieving true peace, which includes justice. The Beloved Community encompasses both true peace and reconciliation.” In the words of my mother, Mrs. Coretta Scott King, ‘The Beloved Community is a spiritual bond that claims the energies and commitment of a diverse group of people who desire to serve a cause larger than themselves.’ It is my hope that this year’s King Holiday Observance experiences will galvanize global citizens for the cause of creating the Beloved Community. Coretta Scott King, said, ‘The Beloved Community is a realistic vision of an achievable society, one in which problems and conflict exist, but are resolved peacefully and without bitterness.’
I believe we can do this together, and now is the time to lean in and work together to create the Beloved Community. I encourage you to watch the full event here. Here is my performance from the ceremony!!
During quarantine I felt the energy of the world change and my own energy shifting daily. Overnight, all of my live performances were cancelled and even more impactful to my life was the realization that I no longer had a connection to the pulse of people at the Atlanta Airport where I would perform several times every week. I fell into a malaise and it only worsened when I saw the world seemly falling apart around me with the COVID virus, political strife, violent injustices, riots, and no sign of it getting better. I started to reflect on where exactly did my happiness came from, what my purpose in life was, and how I could help create the change the world so obviously was needing to become well.
I didn’t know the full answer, but I did know one truth. My answer was music. I’ve always felt the true power in music is that it creates an energy and that it moves energy. So, I rested in this truth. I began playing a melody that was haunting me and needed to come out. This was the beginning of “E3”, as in ‘E’ to the third power. I realized that I was singing a musical story on my cello. It was the story of the world as I felt it in this time; so, I named my multi movement work E3 Oratorio. (An ‘oratorio’ is an opera that is sung with out costumes or a set but still tells a story.)
E3‘s story goes like this:
Earthborn – Despite Our Differences (Largo, Mvt. I) We are all born on this earth despite what our differences might be; so, can we make this a good experience or must we continue on the path of strife? Universally, we search for the answer and for meaning. The cello melody yearns and strays from an earthbound string section as it searches.
Extensity – the Ability to Grow (Allegro con moto leggerio, Mvt. II) This movement is all about conviction and motivation. “Extensity” means ‘the ability for expansion’. In addition to the steady pulse signaling inner fire and growth, the piece is filled with a musical motive called syncopation or a displacement of the accents so that the strong beats become weak and vice versa. Syncopation is an interplay against and between the normal pulsing, but ultimately (in music) it all works together to create a rhythmic movement. I ask if humanity can find our “Extensity” and ultimately work together?
Exaltation – the Agony of Joy (Grazioso, Mvt. III). One of the meanings of the word ‘agony’ is: ‘an intense outburst of emotion or joy’. This definition intrigues me because I feel that when I surrender to the process of life and its’ uncertainty and moments of pain, that I have an opportunity to experience a sense of gratitude to be alive coming through that journey. My goal with “Exaltation” is to communicate a feeling of deep joy which can only come from the experience of agony. The cello line travels from deep pools of syrupy strings up into the stratosphere and back to where you land somewhere over the rainbow.
In addition to the oratorio, the album E3 will also have a bonus track (or two!) including a song called “The Infinite Loss” which I wrote to represent all the world’s mourning. It is a musical representation of deep grief. The way one feels when crying uncontrollably with heaving and surges of emotion. The piece ends with the same release one feels at the end of a “good cry”. The album’s other bonus track is a surprise! :))
Ultimately, the time of COVID has been one of incredible creativity for me. During this time, I have released my first solo project album “Freedom Pulse”, I composed two additional EP albums and I will have released a total of 3 albums by early Fall. Through it all, I am grateful to have the truth of music to rest in and I will continue to rest in it in the foreseeable future. Specifically with “E3 Oratorio”, I would like to help all people feel better through music the way it helps me.
Here are some highlights of meaningful experiences in the making of Freedom Pulse. I hope you enjoy discovering more about me and the story behind my music.
What inspired Freedom Pulse?
Sometime during my music studies at college, I began to have reoccurring dreams where I would see my hand flying up and down the fingerboard and hear sounds coming out from my cello that I had never made. I would wake up with this feeling of freedom and vitality that I wanted that same feeling in real life. Once I had the taste of freedom on my cello in my dreams, it changed my whole approach to music forever.
So, I started treating the cello as if it was a guitar, a drum set, an electric bass, and to emulate some of the great rock and jazz soloists that I looked up to. Like Stevie Ray Vaughan, Miles Davis, and Jean-Luc Ponty. I kept chasing that taste of freedom.
I started with touring and recording in collaborative projects. But, eventually, I had to focus on my own sound. I knew that part of finding my own voice was to find a regular gig as a solo artist. So, I went through a rigorous audition process and won a position performing at the Atlanta airport. I was beside myself to play my own original music but I wasn’t too sure how I felt about sharing music in the airport environment.
Initially, I thought of it as a sterile and often hectic environment; but, soon I felt the airport as a place of connections. When people took the time to stop and listen, I got to connect with people and those people to each other. It was a magical place of discovery and freedom for me interacting with so many people and forming lasting relationships. Playing there became one of my most fulfilling ways to touch people with music and ultimately led to the making of Freedom Pulse.
How did the airport exactly lead to recording the album?
When I reflect on the answer, I have goosebumps.
I ended up recording on the same piano bench that Aretha Franklin had graced years before at the historic FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, AL because of meeting my mentor and music industry veteran, Bill Mayne, at the airport. Concourse D, as in David, to be specific.
After some time into our mentor/mentee relationship, Bill connected me with FAME studio owner, Rodney Hall, and he listened to my demo tracks. Rodney said something to the effect of, “Well, your sound is interesting.” And then he paused. “I’ve not heard anything quite like it before, AND I don’t know where it belongs commercially: but if you can get down here, we can make a recording.” I was beside myself and I just about flew through the ceiling. I said, YES! YES!.
Long before that phone call, I had first heard of FAME when my boyfriend, David, told me he’d watched a documentary about FAME and the Muscle Shoals sound. He shared with me how moving the story and music was and that he thought I would also be moved. About a month later, I met Bill!
A few months later I had a meeting with long time colleague and mixing/mastering engineer, Donn Aaron, to discuss a home studio set up for the film score I was composing at the time; and, Donn shared how he had recently had an amazing experience at a studio, (yes, you guessed it!) called FAME (goosebumps!) and that he could really picture me recording there! Then, to top it all off, I am lucky enough to have Donn be the mixing/mastering engineer for “Freedom Pulse”.
I don’t believe in coincidences; so, I really wanted to honor the experience I was being gifted with to make this album.
Recording at FAME was a dream come true, the energy at the studios is extraordinary because of the long line of top musicians that have recorded there and all the iconic music that has been created at FAME. There is a tangible feeling in the air, and even a smell, that all leads to the right environment to capture ‘magic’.
I approached the recording with trust that all would be as it should be in the studio. Even though I had recorded demos for all the songs and planned out every track before the session, I picked the songs that spoke to me as the right songs while I was in the energy at the studio. The song “Freedom Pulse” spoke to me the loudest.
“Freedom Pulse” is inspired by the energy I feel performing for the travelers. First of all, I’m playing at the world’s busiest airport with more than 250,000 people flowing through each day. Secondly, it’s an international airport and Atlanta is an international city with people from all walks of life. So, there are a lot of people and they are diverse, to say the least! This flow of people is almost like a march, and the march feels like a pulse as if in veins. It’s the veins of our human connection. I see that regardless of who we are, we can all get caught inside our ideas of who we should be, how we should live, what we should achieve, etc., etc. felt this musical motive of a march for “Freedom Pulse“ and then a primal cry coming out from my cello saying “Break out! Release your inner Steppenwolf!” The inseparable quality of our joy and sorrow, of our spiritual and animal, is what I believe leads us to be able to experience what it is to be alive. Music is the celebration of being alive.
There is a beautiful quote that resonates with me in Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet: “And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?”
If I was to sum up the experiences that led to the making of the album, I feel as if I am the lute that was carved out by the knife and now I get to sing.
Everything about music is human connection; so, I offer Freedom Pulse to you as a celebration of all our connections.
Yes, I’m recording an album. Part of getting prepared for recording is to create ‘demo’ versions of the songs for better focus of what is desired on the official recording of the music. Here is a taste of the album with one of these versions of my song “Skipping”.
The winter premiere of Season 8 of “The Vampire Diaries” will feature a song written by Michael Malarkey, one of the show’s actors, with Jenn Cornell on cello.
The episode is directed by Ian Somerhalder, who play’s Damon on the show. Ian says that the song “Scars” fits perfectly into episode 8. It will be used at the end of the midseason premiere for a montage, and there is a special extended version just for “The Vampire Diaries.”
Malarkey’s new album will be released this summer, and has several tracks featuring Jenn on cello. The single “Scars” is available now to stream (see below) and purchase on Spotify and iTunes. The full album can be pre-ordered through his Pledge Music page.