Matana Roberts is an internationally renowned composer, band leader, saxophonist, sound experimentalist and mixed-media practitioner. Roberts works in many contexts and mediums, including improvisation, dance, poetry, and theater. She made two records as a core member of the Sticks And Stones quartet in the early 2000s and has gone on to release a diverse body of solo and ensemble work under her own name on Constellation and Central Control over the past decade. She is perhaps best known for her acclaimed Coin Coin project, a multi-chapter work of “panoramic sound quilting” that aims to expose the mystical roots and channel the intuitive spirit-raising traditions of American creative expression while maintaining a deep and substantive engagement with narrativity, history, community and political expression within improvisatory musical structures. Constellation began documenting the Coin Coin project in 2011 and has released the first three of a projected twelve album-length chapters to date.
The third chapter of Coin Coin, entitled river run thee and released on Constellation on February 2014, finds Roberts constructing a sound art tapestry from field recordings, loop and effects pedals, and spoken word recitations, alongside her saxophone and singing voices. Coin Coin Chapter Three: river run thee could arguably be considered first and foremost a vocal work, and notwithstanding its experimental and esoteric structure, a deeply narrative work as well. Not unlike 2013’s Coin Coin Chapter Two: Mississippi Moonchile, the new chapter unfolds as an uninterrupted album-length flow, this time in what Roberts calls “a fever dream” of sonic material, woven in surrealist fashion.
A self-taught mixed media composer, the Chicago-raised and New York City-based Roberts earned two degrees in performance from a smattering of American institutions but received her main training from free arts programs in the American Public School System. She is a past member of the Black Rock Coalition (BRC) and the The Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM). She has been a Van Lier Fellow, a Brecht Forum Fellow, a Copeland Fellow, a Jazz Makes Fellow, an ICASP fellow, a 2013 FCA fellow and a seven-time Alpert Award In The Arts nominee, receiving the award in 2014. She has been invited to teach, lecture, run workshops and/or take up artistic residencies in countless places under diverse conditions and with diverse communities over the past decade and is a past faculty member of the Banff Creative Music Workshop, School for Improvised Music, and Bard College MFA, where she was co-chair of the Music and Sound Department 2011-12. Roberts won the Doris Duke Impact Award in 2014.