Cecilia Smith
Photo of Cecilia Smith
Cecilia Smith Small Ensembles
Mary Lou Williams Resurgence Project
Dark Triumph
Crossing Bridges



Crossing Bridges – A Inter-Media Work of Music and Visualizations

Lead Artist and Composer – Cecilia Smith
Filmmakers – Miriam Bennett and David Litz
Set Design – Inda Blatch-Geib
Producer – The Tri-C Jazz Festival
Commissioned by the JOYCE FOUNDATION

Crossing Bridges is an inter-media work that explores the issues of identity and the collective human experience through music, images, text, and sound. The use of the visual context of bridges draws on its role in defining the spatial identity of Cleveland (but could be any major city), but also in the ability of these structures to join geographic and to a larger extent racial, economic and social divides. Have you every thought of the purpose of a bridge beyond the function of providing passage? Although we encounter these structures everyday we never stop to think of how our ability to navigate them joins each individual in a collective experience that moves beyond differences and is centered in the continuity of moving from space to space or from one life moment to the next.

Through the lens of Cubism, Crossing Bridges draws on the experiences of moving from life moment to life moment as expressed through the life stories of everyday people. This work draws on the events that have shaped these individual’s lives--be it the understanding of oneself beyond the color of the their skin or their sexuality or finding purpose and a calling in life--and interprets those “fragments” through visual images and musical themes. Composer Cecilia Smith, through the vehicle of various motif ideas reflects how life constructs it’s own sound track that historicizes the rites of passage that protagonist undergoes to reach the point of self-acceptance and maturation. While visual design communication artists Miriam Bennett and David Litz has drawn on images that shape the visual context of these experiences.

The stage design of Crossing Bridges evokes the milieu of a rooftop jazz performance with an abstract cityscape as the background. This cityscape frames a fractured screen, which will serve as our window into the stories of the city of Cleveland and her inhabitants. The splintered imagery produced by the screens reflect the diversity of our perspectives and how we each interpret the world around us—in small fragments of sound and moving images. The scope of these images is expanded through the juxtaposition of projected film images, live action and animation with the live performance of a 16-piece jazz band interweaving various motives and rhythmic grooves into a symphony of sound that is transformed through the alternation of various riffs and improvisation. Smith cleverly uses improvisation to mirror the unexpected and spontaneous nature of the life events explored in each story. In tandem all of the elements provide a myriad of simultaneous viewing experiences that prompts the audience to decide which will draw his or her attention—image, movement of bodies playing instruments or the text performed in various ways.

Eight stories form the core of this work with each representing some aspect of the collective human experience defined in both rural and urban environments. In one instance urban legends that define the cultural life of Cleveland’s streets and respective neighborhoods are explored. Yet these stories are the landscape of any city or town across America. “The Scary Man” explores the neighborhood phenomenon of that one dilapidated house, inhabited by an elderly recluse who has become the subject of ghost stories, childhood taunts, and legend. Generation after generation has passed these stories down, but no one has stopped to think about the identity of this individual or why they live in such an isolated existence. “Red Devil” focuses on how an individual’s sojourn into a poverty-stricken, crime-infected neighborhood develops into a love of regional barbeque and a relationship with the proprietor of that well-known fare. The themes of maturation, self-actualization, the discovery of purpose and how the past intersects with the present form the scope of the remaining stories. But regardless of subject matter or context, these stories indicate how the economics, spatial, sexual and racial identity all shape the personality of a city. Most of all Crossing Bridges calls us all to consider that no matter how different or complex each of our individual life experiences may be we all share the common desire to be loved, accepted and understood.

Tammy L. Kernodle PhD
Associate Professor of Musicology
Miami University

The Ensemble consists of the following noted players:

Cecilia Smith – Composer, Over All Concept, Sound Designer, Vibes and marimba
Cecil Bridgewater – Conductor
Carlton Holmes – Piano
Kenny Davis – Bass
Ron Savage – Drums
Ron McBee – Percussion
Bill Pierce – Soprano Sax
Sean Jones – Trumpet
Dominic Farinacci – Trumpet
Howard Johnson – Tuba
Freddie Bryant – Acoustic Guitar
Tony Pulizzi – Electric Guitar
Rock Wehrmann – Keyboard
Additional Brass Players
Children’s Voices
Spoken Word Artists



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