Click here for a National Archives video of the Documerica Photography Project.
A meditation on America’s relationship to our land, our resources, and ourselves, Documerica is a multimedia concert that melds multiple screen video projections with original music by some of today’s top composers. Documerica is performed with electrifying virtuosity by the post modern quartet ETHEL.
Described by The New York Times as "new music bonding with old images in rich, provocative and moving ways," this evening-long program was created in collaboration with projection designer Deborah Johnson and directed by Steve Cosson. ETHEL’s Documerica juxtaposes manipulated vintage 1970’s visuals with the music of today. Inspired by and showcasing evocative imagery from Project Documerica, a 1970’s photographic archive commissioned by the Environmental Protection Agency, the program explores this compelling snapshot of a tumultuous era that powerfully connects to today’s environmental and social issues.
Featuring new work by ETHEL members and commissioned composers Mary Ellen Childs, Ulysses Owens Jr., Jerod Impichchaachaaha' Tate, and James Kimo Williams, the program’s music is in constant dialogue with the projections in an arc that is by turns urban, rural, pastoral, and gritty. ETHEL selected composers for ETHEL's Documerica who represent the diversity of America. Hailing from different regions, backgrounds and generations, and influenced by a variety of musical practices, genres and forms, each contributes his or her distinctive voice to the program.
Additional Project Information
In 1971, the newly-established EPA created Project Documerica, commissioning outstanding photographers across America to document the state of the environment and its impact on society. The result was an archive of tens of thousands of photographs amassed over nearly a decade. In spite of its historic and cultural significance, this massive artistic project had been largely forgotten until recent digitalization made it more accessible. Forty years after its advent, the imagery of Project Documerica is the inspiration for ETHEL’s Documerica, which taps the archive’s evocative potential and brings its visual and emotional impact into dialogue with the 21st century.