We haven’t heard new music from Kamasi Washington since his 2015 triple-LP opus The Epic, but that changes this Friday when the high-profile jazz maestro debuts his latest work “Harmony Of Difference” at the 2017 Whitney Biennial. It’s the New York museum’s first iteration of the event since relocating by the High Line in 2015. Washington will reveal his 37-minute, six-track suite on the fifth floor gallery alongside a video by filmmaker A. G. Rojas; the visual and musical installation will play on a loop. The piece is an expression of Washington’s resolute belief that diversity is “a gift,” rather than a negative problem we have to solve as it is often depicted in our political climate. To achieve this end, he focuses in on using musical counterpoint to signify coexistence.
Speaking with The New York Times, Washington explained his intentions: “I didn’t want it to sound chaotic. I wanted to show how you can pull these different musical pieces together in a way that felt harmonious.” Rojas’ visual accompaniment further reflects this composite unity and will be displayed on three walls with each panning across patterns painted by Washington’s sister Amani before they’re revealed as forming in total an abstract face. Afterwards, as the sixth and final track begins, a projector will display onto the single bare wall a different video, one in which everyone in the gallery will have to come together to watch in unison.